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Music, music, music at Del Valle

Two Day Town at Lake Del Valle has tunes from Bach to rock

A hamlet of music, color and camaraderie arose on the grassy slopes of Lake Del Valle today, and on Sunday night the 1,500 campers will leave it untouched, except in spirit.

Two Day Town, now in its 16th year, is featuring 40 musical acts on three stages for the fans and families that gather to camp and enjoy music amid the serenity. With so many musicians on hand -- pros and amateur -- informal jam sessions invariably spring up in every nook and cranny.

"We rent the entire west side of the park," explained organizer Michael Ferrucci, who has been serving as "mayor" of the Two Day Town from the beginning. "People camp wherever they want, on the lawn or the side of the hill."

The music covers the gamut.

"It's an amazing variety, from Bach to rock," Ferrucci said. "There's incredible jazz, country, swing, folk music. Several classical guitar players come."

"Entertainers range from the gifted and musically talented, jazz singers, spectacular drum circles, big band salsa music, funk music, belly dancing, harps and horn sections, Cajun," he continued. "On Sunday morning, there is one tree we gather around, and there's gospel music. It's truly a community."

Acoustic musicians gather for open mic in front of Leslie's Cafe, an amenity that can make camping more hassle-free, starting with morning coffee.

"Leslie has wonderful, organic food; fresh, fresh food. She grows the vegetables," Ferrucci said.

The main stage is on the lawn adjacent to the west-side beach. Acoustic music is performed at the amphitheater as well as around the cafe area. The hours of 3-6 p.m. are honored throughout Two Day Town as "nap time," with no amplified music in case small children need to rest.

Ferrucci is beginning to pass the mayoral duties to 15-year-old Ariela Castillo, a student at San Ramon Valley High who has attended every year since she was 2. She has been playing guitar and ukulele for two years as well as percussion in the school band.

"From the day I stepped foot at the beautiful Lake Del Valle, when I was only 2 years old, I knew that Two Day Town was my second home," Castillo said. "I want to become mayor because I want to make sure that anyone can grow to love Two Day Town as much as I do."

Being on the board has shown her how much work takes place behind the scenes, she said.

"Some of my goals with Two Day Town include getting people excited about music, urging others to 'Leave No Trace,' and to get as many people as possible to participate in our community," she said.

About a half dozen enthusiasts managed the first two-day event, Ferrucci recalled, but now the core group numbers 40 or so.

"The volunteers do everything from providing security, parking management, stage, sound and lighting, and solicitation and scheduling of entertainment, sanitary bathrooms, recycling, etc.," he said. "Needless to say, this is a monumental undertaking, yet we all serve with joy."

The festival takes advantage of the surroundings, with nature hikes, trail-bike excursions, swimming and playing on the beach and in the lake. Children can enjoy a staffed creative activity area.

The executive board organizes the community's activities, meets with East Bay Regional Park District authorities and deals with regulations such as emergency plans. They firmly believe in "Leaving No Trace."

"It's easy," Ferrucci said. "We take out what we bring in to the park. We make sure that every piece of paper, plastic, metal is put into containers and brought out of the park for recycling."

The original core members were attendees of the Strawberry Music Festival that used to be held near Yosemite. But as that family event grew to more than 5,000 ,it wasn't so enjoyable, and Ferrucci and friends began to kick around the idea of a local fest.

Each year Two Day Town draws new fans who hear about it through word of mouth. This has allowed it to grow comfortably and always be manageable, noted Ferrucci. And it made sense to add the third day to enjoy the fruits of their labor after installing electrical service, doing major stage construction and assembling the army of volunteers.

All of the entertainment is donated, with no musician or performer being paid. Despite this, and the success of the event, it continues to operate in the red, according to Ferrucci.

"We have all chipped in to make this happen year after year, and are only able to make all of our obligations by going into debt each year," he said. "The good news is, we are going in the right direction."

Volunteers work a pair of four-hour shifts in exchange for free admittance.

"There are not many of these kinds of festivals that are close to the Bay Area and that offer such a diverse and wholesome family-oriented musical event," Ferrucci said. "We want it to continue to grow while keeping the relaxed spirit and mix of spontaneous music with onstage performances."

For ticket information and a schedule of entertainment, go to www.twodaytown.com or call (510) 418-4707.

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