Maline Hazle, leader of the Camping Assistance Crew, recalls her first Strawberry Music Festival as an entrance into a world of music she’d never known. Her parents brought her up on Frank Sinatra, and she’d seen Johnny Mathis, the Beach Boys – all very big names of the time. After tapping into the music scene at Strawberry, she notes “I was astonished at the range and depth of talent that I was never aware existed.”
She was living in the Bay Area, working as a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News. Besides the normal range of politics, she also covered terrorists, Mafioso murder, Patty Hearst, and once a prison gang put out a hit on her! (We’re glad she’s still around.) Also while at that paper, Maline’s esteemed reporting won her part of a joint Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Loma Prieta Earthquake.
Barry, her husband who passed just six years ago, worked as a public safety officer – director of emergency services. One day back in 1982, a friend of Barry’s had come to work glowingly describing a brand new festival he had just attended in Strawberry, CA. Maline and Barry decided to give it a try.
It was the second year of the festival (and its first year at Camp Mather), when Maline and Barry arrived, got settled, and “picked up some chairs and just followed people.” The time was around 5pm early Friday evening (when the festival was only three days), and they weren’t sure what to expect. As they entered the music meadow, Fiddlestix was playing. They were both instantly hooked from that moment on. Between the two of them, they’ve never missed a festival since.
Happily, in addition to Strawberry, Maline and Barry soon got involved in grassroots music in the Bay Area. They became regulars at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, and members of the Northern California Bluegrass Society (formerly the Santa Cruz Bluegrass Society). Clover Creek Music Booking was born, where they arranged west coast music tours for folks like Kathy Kallick and Marley’s Ghost.
A little while after moving to Oak Run, CA to build their own home near shady oaks and a gurgling creek, Maline joined Redding’s newspaper, The Record Searchlight, as a reporter and later, an editor. But y’know, homebuilding and reporting didn’t slow her down.
For three years after they first moved north Maline and Barry produced a bluegrass festival for the Redding Rotary – the Shasta Serenade. They featured some top of the line folks – Nashville Bluegrass Band, Don Reno, Lou Reid, Gibson Brothers. A bunch of Strawberry staffers volunteered for it.
Even closer to home, they found some neighbors who also went to Strawberry – Bruce and Linda Wendt. Soon both couples conspired to create a rural concert series patterned after Strawberry, and the Oaksong Society for the Preservation of Way Cool Music was born. Furthermore, Barry manned his own radio show for 20 years at North State Public Radio’s KCHO, and they both attended the International Bluegrass Music Association conference (IBMA,) and Folk Alliance conferences, as well. It was at a music conference in Arizona that they met one of Strawberry’s founders – Charlie Cran.
Barry and Maline became fast friends with Charlie, adding to another Strawberry founder, Mitch Third, whom they knew as well. As they became closer to Strawberry and its masterminds, their volunteer positions (previously Set-up/Tear-down and Garbage), morphed into “pretty much whatever Charlie needed.” Charlie would frequently call on Barry across the radio – “Big Bear!” Often it was a request to take good care of people with special needs, like CPAP machines or wheelchair accessible camping. Eventually, their title evolved into Camping Assistance Crew, with the general idea that they would “try to help people have a good time.” Their crew, usually 8 or 9 people, arrive so early and leave so late that they spend near 2 weeks on site at each festival.
Maline and Barry’s many friends and two sons also got hooked on Strawberry. One of them, Brian Hazle, is now very active in the organization. “It changed our lives,” says Maline, “as individuals, and as a family.”
When asked for more thoughts on Strawberry, Maline explained that she experiences Strawberry as more than a music festival; she sees it as a community where people respect one another. She appreciates it as a place where people can relax, be themselves, be inspired, and not feel threatened. “The Strawberry Way is real,” she says, “it’s a true philosophy of life.” Some of Maline’s best friends she’s ever made are at Strawberry. “It’s kind of like going home.”
The festival is incredibly grateful for the contributions by you and your family Maline, thank you so much for your commitment to and cultivation of Strawberry!