Huck Finn festival under new management

For 37 years, Don and Barbara Tucker had run the Huck Finn Jubilee in south central California on Father’s Day weekend. For most of its tenure, their bluegrass festival was held at the Mojave Narrows Regional Park in Victorville, but after Don passed away in 2012, the festival moved about 30 miles to the Cucamonga-Guasti Regional Park in Ontario, CA.

The Tucker family ran the event in Don’s absence in 2013, after relocating it closer to where his adult children lived and worked, but were ready to let it go after last year’s festival. Putting it on without their father proved to be an emotionally draining experience for his children, and it was simply too much for Barbara to consider on her own.

None of the Tuckers wanted to see Huck Finn die with Don, but neither did they feel up to running it themselves. That’s when Michael Krouse and the Ontario Convention Center & Visitors Bureau stepped in. Arrangements were made for the Bureau to purchase the business, and it will be operated by the city going forward.

Krouse had already been acquainted with the festival, and the Tucker family, and was involved in helping them lease the Cucamonga-Guasti park for 2013. Seeing the value of the event for the Ontario community, he was determined to keep it going, and siting in permanently in Ontario.

Next month’s festival (June 13-15) will be the first Huck Finn Jubilee under the Visitor’s Bureau management, and Michael hopes that long-time attendees will feel right at home. It will retain the Huck Finn/Mark Twain theme, but with a few changes to help appeal to a younger audience, and families with young children.

“Ontario is located in what we in California call the Inland Empire. We’re 30 minutes from Los Angeles, and an hour from San Deigo, located at the intersection of several primary highways. The park offers boating, fishing, and a water park, and ticket holders will have access to all of that at no extra charge – other than a fishing license.

This year we have added a beer garden, and Pete Wernick will host his Bluegrass Jam Camp all three days.”

Krouse is also bringing in jam grass heroes String Cheese Incident and Keller Williams with the Travelin McCourys, along with bluegrass favorites Rhonda Vincent, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Del McCoury and The Gibson Brothers. His belief is that bluegrass fans will make a point to be at the stage for the acts they enjoy, and not be bothered by the blending of styles among the headliners.

He was also adamant that there was no way this would have happened without Don’s family’s participation.

“I couldn’t have done it without the knowledge and expertise of the Tucker family; Bree Tucker especially.

Each time I’ve considered a change, I’ve asked myself, ‘What would Don think of this?’ ”

A major change is the inclusion of all the various amenities at no additional charge. Other than camping and RV fees – and vendor purchases – your ticket gets you everything the campground offers. Even the Wernick camp is available without additional charges.

Michael says that camping spots are already sold out, so it appears that Huck Finn fans are on board for 2014. He has expanded the number of vendors on site, with more than 60 already registered. There is also a VIP ticket available, with access to special parking, a covered stage viewing area, and snacks and drinks throughout the weekend.

“We are prepared to accept 20,000 people per day, and the park could accommodate even more if necessary.

Given the demographics of our area, and the easy access for much of Southern California, we feel that the new Huck Finn Jubilee will become a major destination festival for bluegrass fans of every kind.”

Full details can be found online about the stage schedule, park amenities and ticketing options.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.