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Reggae Legacy banks on Toots and Kabaka

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
Observer senior writer

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Toots and The Maytals and Kabaka Pyramid will headline Reggae Legacy 2019, an August 3-4 show organised by the Mateel Community Center Board to replace the cancelled Reggae On The River (ROTR).

The event takes place at Mateel Community Center in Redway, California, where the long-running ROTR has been held for years. According to organisers, Reggae Legacy is a tribute to Carol Bruno, a co-founder of ROTR who died from breast cancer in February.

It was announced in June that High Times Magazine, main sponsors of ROTR, cancelled the show due to sustained pressure from gay rights groups, who were displeased that Sizzla was one of its performers. They contend that Sizzla has a history of abusing gays and their lifestyle.

In a statement announcing Reggae Legacy 2019, organisers described it as “An all-ages event, the Reggae Legacy 2019 event is dedicated to the life of Carol Bruno”.

It also stated that more artistes will be added to the line-up soon.

Another calendar event, the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, was also cancelled this year, which left the vibrant northern California reggae scene without a major event for the first time in many years.

For Michelle Bushnell, president of the southern Humboldt Chamber of Commerce, the absence of ROTR is a body blow to local business.

“It was a huge disappointment that High Times cancelled. Reggae On The River was one of our biggest money makers. Once [an event] doesn't happen in our area, it is hard to get it to start back up again…I am concerned that money-making events like it are dwindling away. [The festival attendees] utilise our motels and restaurants and when you don't have that influx, it is harmful economically,” she told Reggae Legacy 2019.

Bruno and colleague Nancy Shelby started Reggae On The River in 1984 as a fund-raiser to build a community centre to replace a previous structure, which had been destroyed by fire.