Barbecue, Bluegrass and Free(music)dom, oh my!

On Independence Day, live music, barbecue for purchase, a vendor fair and activities for the kids are in store – from the community to the community – at the Atascadero 4th of July Bluegrass Freedom Festival. Tree-shaded lawns throughout Atascadero Lake Park at 9100 Morro Road will provide plenty of room for folks with low-back chairs to gather in view of the stage for the big event from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Admission is free.

Free music

Emceed by SLO County bluegrass musician BanjerDan, a full array of entertainers are set to take the stage.Snap Jackson
New to this year’s program are The Blue Js who will impress audiences at 4 p.m. Musically seasoned beyond their years, this assembly of five young gents from the Bay Area and Central Valley of Northern California includes Josh Gooding, Jesse Personeni, Jacob Gooding, John Gooding and Jack Kinney. In a versatile repertoire, the Blue Js pay homage to the greats of bluegrass, including Bill Monroe, Don Reno, Red Allen and Frank Wakefield, traditional country songs of George Jones and that distinctive Bakersfield sound popularized by Buck Owens.
Local trio from San Luis Obispo, Little Black Train hits the stage at 5:30 p.m. A three-man band consisting of Kenny Blackwell, John Weed and Stuart Mason elicit a bygone era of barn dance fun with fiddle-playing, guitar, mandolin, standup bass and resonator pickin’. Not only does Little Black Train perform Americana, Appalachian, and gospel-tinged blues, their Scotch and Irish reels with harmonies and humor (“Take Your Leg Off Mine”) are guaranteed to create a memorable time.
Also appearing are the Toro Creek Ramblers. This informal group of local musicians gathers in a twice-monthly jam session at Last Stage West / Toro Creek Event Center. The group is led by doctor and guitarist Bern Singsen and banjo player Dan Mazer (BanjerDan).
Snap Jackson & the Knock On Wood Players will round out the evening at 7 p.m. Snap and his charismatic crew was a big hit at the first Bluegrass Freedom Festival in 2017, when they kept the crowd engaged well after the sun went down. Jackson plays banjo in both Scruggs and clawhammer styles while employing a variety of instruments. His formidable backing includes accomplished working musicians Shane Kalbach, Eric Antrim and Brian Clark.
“The amount of love and support that the people of Atascadero and the surrounding area have given us over the years has been incredible!” said Jackson. “We are continually amazed and humbled by the size of the crowds that come out to share in the musical experience with us. A live show is always a group effort and we can always count on the good folks of Atascadero to meet us more than halfway. We are super juiced to be back at the Freedom Fest for the second year in a row! What a great lineup!”

Food and drink

The 2017 debut celebration enjoyed a highly successful turnout with 350 barbecue dinners sold onsite. In addition to day-of-the-event sales priced for adults, kids, and seniors 65+, organizers are helping to meet their audience demand online with early-bird barbecue presales through July 2 at Along with barbecue offerings, beer, wine, cider, and Paradise Shaved Ice will be available for purchase, beginning at 4 p.m.

Family fun

Bounce houses, paddleboats, and games will be on hand to keep the kids busy again this year.
Tessa Betz, a lifelong resident of Atascadero, expressed that she is proud to raise her children in her community and looks forward to more food vendors.
“The Atascadero 4th of July celebration was a wonderful showcase of all that our quaint city has to offer – the hometown feel – not too crowded, not a hassle to get to, and with just the right amount of music and fun,” said Betz. “After a long day of celebrating and battling (4th of July) crowds, we enjoyed just relaxing while the kids bounced for free! I’m very impressed and will be there again this year.”
Melissa Chavez can be contacted at