Imagine kicking back with the family in an easy chair while sitting on the banks of the Russian River surrounded by towering Redwood trees and listening to some awesome jazz and blues tunes. If this sounds like a perfect weekend, then pack up the kiddos for a trip to Guerneville for a day of great food, swimming, and of course, music. The Russian River’s two major music festivals will be combined for an exciting family-friendly weekend of jazz and blues music known as The Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival. This year’s lineup features some amazing acts, so don’t miss out!

The Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival is a time-honored Guerneville tradition that dates back to the 1970s, where locals and music fans from afar journeyed down to the shores of Johnson’s Beach to enjoy music from top name blues and jazz artists. Johnson’s Beach, located within the heart of Guerneville, is a picturesque concert venue; its smooth river-rock beaches and gigantic Redwood trees create the perfect setting for a great show. The Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival mixes great music with the natural beauty of the outdoors, so it’s great event for families–here are some tips on making the best of your trip to the festival.

Gear up. Summertime at the Russian River means lots of sun, so be sure to pack a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for everyone. Sweatshirts aren’t a bad idea for those cool river mornings and evenings either. Chairs and blankets are a great way to mark out your spot, and bringing a beach umbrella not only shades you, but will help you find your spot amongst the crowd. The river is full of rocks–both smooth and sharp, so water shoes or strap-on sandals are a must for sensitive feet!

Set up early. With such a perfect location, it goes without saying that the beach fills up quickly. The Jazz & Blues Festival is one of the only times that Guerneville has a major traffic and parking problem, so locals know to arrive early.

Hungry? While food is available at the festival, it’s only a short walk back into Guerneville where you can hit up some of the local spots to grab a quick bite to eat. Be on the lookout for the popular Guerneville Taco Truck (16632 Main St.) to snag some savory tacos, and Flavors Unlimited is the perfect pit stop for some delicious ice cream or a juicy burger before heading home.

In between sets. The grown ups can head over to the wine garden to sample some premium wines from Sonoma County’s top wineries and dance to some tunes. Lots of kids in tow? Take them to wade around in the warm Russian River. If you and the kiddos decide to go for a swim, beware of the river current–when the dam is open the river flows rather quickly, so keep on eye on those little swimmers.

If you don’t feel like fighting the crowds on the beach, try renting a canoe at Burke’s or King’s and paddle down the river to watch the show from the water!

This year’s exciting lineup features performances by: BB King, Babyface, Buddy Guy, Jackie Greene, Norman Browne (to name a few!). With so many great artists performing, this year’s show is going to be one of the biggest festivals to date!

For the event, jazz music will be featured on Saturday and blues on Sunday.

The Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival
Saturday Sept. 24 & Sunday Sept. 25 2011
10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Johnson’s Beach
16241 First St.
Guerneville, Ca 95446
707-869-2022

Ticket Prices
• General Admission – $45
• General Admission Child’s Pass (6-12; 5 and under are FREE) – $10
• General Admission 2-Day Pass – $80

Online: Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival.

Whether this is your first time visiting the Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival or you’re a seasoned concert veteran, we hope you and your family have a great time enjoying the great weather, food, and music in Guerneville this weekend!

— Scott Wardell