HomeCommunityCali Roots festival connects students and provides much-needed teen experience

Cali Roots festival connects students and provides much-needed teen experience

Published May 31, 2024


The California Roots Music and Arts Festival is not just for adults—it is a fun and teenage-friendly experience that kicked off the summer for many Carmel High School students. In an area that is particularly catered towards tourists and adults, Cali Roots is a festival that makes sure the younger demographic is included.

(photo by PHIL EMERSON)

Located at the Monterey County Fair and Event Center, California Roots is a festival centered around roots and reggae music but has included a huge range of genres and styles since its founding in 2010.  This year’s lineup featured popular artists such as Rebelution, E-40, Too $hort and three of the Marley brothers, good food, merchandise and jewelry stands and social spaces perfect for hanging out with friends. With two large stages, concerts thriving past 11 p.m. and DJ sets in between, the festival is truly an immersive artistic and musical experience.

Many artists such as Living Legends made conscious efforts to include the younger community in the crowd at Cali Roots. (courtesy of CALIFORNIA ROOTS)

“This is my third year going to Cali Roots, and overall the experience is awesome,” says junior Bella Rocha. “For teens around here, it’s one of the only events and places we are truly able to all connect and unify while listening to good music. Everyone just hangs with everyone.”

Growing up on the Monterey Peninsula presents unique challenges because local businesses may cater more to tourists than residents, leaving fewer hangout spots and activities specifically for teenagers. Cali Roots emphasizes including the younger generation in their extended weekend of music, art and food.

“The challenge for teens in the area is that it is mainly an elderly community and a tourist area,” says junior Bella Tanguay. “There’s only so many options for teens to do, like Cali Roots and the fair, and it takes a toll on teens because we end up doing the same things on repeat, or we are stuck inside.”


Cali Roots has provided a much-needed outlet for this type of experience, from discovering new music to enjoying the lively festival atmosphere. With such a far-reaching influence, Cali Roots draws in music lovers and fans from a large radius of California. For students in Monterey County, the festival also brings friends together. Teenagers from various schools, who might not have frequent opportunities to meet due to busy schedules and limited venues, find common ground at Cali Roots. This communal aspect of Cali Roots is significant in providing a platform for teenagers to share memorable experiences outside of the classroom.

The Monterey County Fairgrounds was covered in music venues, jewelry and craft stands and fun activities for the youth attendees. (photo by PHIL EMERSON)

“I have friends at schools like Carmel, Pacific Grove and Monterey,” says Emma Gaino-Wilcox, a rising junior at York High School, “and it’s really cool when there are events like Cali Roots that give us a space to all hang out together.”

Cali Roots serves as an important cultural event where teens can immerse themselves in the arts and be inspired by live performances. Ice Cube, a headliner at the festival, gave a word of advice to the young crowd between songs, telling children to always stay safe and stay in school. While many of his songs and other reggae artists’ who appeared at the event may include drug and alcohol references inappropriate for teenagers, their positive messages are often what sticks with the young audience.

Cali Roots provided a fun and safe environment for children and teenagers to enjoy live music and a friendly atmosphere. (photo by EYES OF JEM)

“Seeing Ziggy Marley play ‘One Love,’ his father’s song, was such an incredible experience,” says sophomore Jaya Champagne. “That lyricism is really something that resonates with a lot of us because sticking together is such a powerful thing.”

For many students, the festival is a highlight of the year, blending entertainment with the invaluable opportunity to socialize in a dynamic and inclusive setting.

“Cali Roots was an amazing experience this weekend,” says sophomore Lucca Gomez Jolley. “The vibes were great, the music was awesome, and everyone was super nice.”


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