Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival: Fans Yet Again Astounded by Free Festival


Amber Kroner '17, Writer

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park was recently flooded with music lovers, festival goers, and free-spirited San Franciscans thoroughly enjoying the 15th annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. People arrived with frisbees, food, picnics, hula hoops, and pets, enjoying this entirely free music festival. As the name suggests, there was a huge variety of music, ranging from folk, indie, blues, rock, and of course, bluegrass, with acts such as Cake, Chris Isaak, Glen Hansard, Allen Stone, and Hop Along.

Organizers estimated around 750,000 people would show up over the course of the three-day festival–nearly twice the attendance of the famous 1969 Woodstock festival. One of the things that makes this annual festival so special is the scene–or if you prefer– vibe. Because this festival is 100% free, it attracts all types of people, ranging from die-hard bluegrass fans, to people looking to discover some different types of music, to attendees who are just looking to get some sun.

This festival is made possible every year by local billionaire and bluegrass lover, Warren Hellman. Because of a generous donation back in 2001, this festival is able to remain free and noncommercial year after year. Before his death in 2011, Hellman had been offered numerous corporate sponsorships, but he preferred to fund HSBF out of his own pocket in order to keep large businesses from taking over. He wanted to create a free, noncommercial festival filled with his favorite types of music in his favorite city, because, as he said, “How could you have something more fun than that?”

This magical festival is calm and fun, free from chaos and turmoil, and attracts numerous people traveling from all over California, the United States, and even the world, coming year after year in order to get a taste of this noteworthy festival. This year’s event, with the the largest attendance this unique San Francisco festival has ever seen, still managed to maintain Hellman’s original vision:  it was all about the music and the fans, just as it always has been and always will be.