When the pandemic began, many musicians began livestreaming performances online. But for venues, it wasn’t an easy transition.
The new owner of Lille Aeske, Anil Prajapati, was unsure what to do. He’d taken over the space just nine months before the pandemic and had been regularly hosting live music there. Suddenly, that wasn’t an option.
But a year ago this month, Prajapati, along with Anna Adamski (creative director) and Ben Berry (productions manager) went big and assembled a two-day livestream event. And like that, the May Day Festival was born.
“It was amazing for us to be able to execute a whole festival online and see how the community responded, how the musicians felt so moved by being able to perform, and the fact that we can all create a wonderful space around each other and still feel connected, even though it’s over the internet. It gave us a little semblance of normal at a very opportune time, when hope was running low,” says Prajapati.
This week, the May Day Festival returns—live and in person. However, it won’t be inside Lille Aeske. It’ll be outside across two stages on Hallcrest Vineyards’ beautiful 13 acres.
After the success of the first May Day Festival, Prajapati continued to look for ways to bring live music to the community in 2020. Lille Aeske started doing Sunday brunch livestreams, as well as during others. During the summer and fall months, they did outdoor shows on the back of their delivery truck.
But an important step for them was working with Hallcrest Vineyards. The partnership began after Prajapati swung by the winery one day. Not typically a wine guy, he gave the place a look and liked it. He spoke to owner John Schumacher, who told Prajapati he was looking for ways to increase business and hoping to host live music more often. The two worked together to start putting on shows at Hallcrest Vineyards in October. Schumacher had the ideal pandemic space, and Prajapati had the connections and relationship to the musicians. Lille Aeske favorites like Pat Hull and Kaitlen Jemma drove down to perform.
“It’s just been wonderful,” says Prajapati of his partnership with Hallcrest, “because, for them, it’s been increasing their wine sales and getting people excited about that culture and about events and the musicians that we bring, which brings really good quality music to the scene.”
Toward the end of March, as things started to look promising for reopening Santa Cruz County, Prajapati was looking out at the Hallcrest field and realized it would be the perfect spot for a festival.
“We started brainstorming, and the idea became more of a reality. As we started talking about it and gaining the excitement, it wasn’t without hurdles, navigating all the Covid rules. We had Roaring Camp to reference, and we were very confident that we were going to be able to pull this off successfully in this field,” Prajapati says.
The event comes weeks after the CDC told vaccinated people that gathering outdoors is mostly safe, and many people are starting to venture to outside events for the first time in over a year. It’s also a nice way to celebrate Hallcrest’s 80th anniversary.
The lineup features local and regional favorites like Marty O’Reilly & the Old Soul Orchestra, Whiskerman, Kendra McKinley, Wolf Jett, Calvin Arsenia, Kelly McFarling and more.
The May Day Festival starts at noon on Saturday, May 29, and Sunday, May 30, at Hallcrest Vineyards, 379 Felton Empire Road, Felton. One-day passes are $89; two-day, $160. 831-335-4441, lilleaeske.com/events-calendar/may-day-music-festival-1.