Star Wars Day at Sea Returns to Disney Cruise Line

Photos by Matt Stroshane

In 2018, the epic day at sea returns to Disney Cruise Line with 15 special Disney Fantasy sailings to the Caribbean from January through April. Star Wars Day at Sea transports guests to a galaxy far, far away to celebrate the legendary adventures and iconic characters from the Star Wars saga with Jedi, Wookiees, droids, Stormtroopers and others during the special day-long celebration. [Read more…]

The White Snake: Baltimore Center Stage Announces Cast and Artistic Team

Baltimore Center Stage is pleased to announce the cast and artistic team for The White Snake. Opening Night of The White Snake, March 3, will mark the grand reopening of the theater after its $28 million renovation. The White Snake will be the debut production in Baltimore Center Stage’s completely redesigned Head Theater.

“We are so excited to open our doors and welcome the community as they experience our remarkable transformation,” said Baltimore Center Stage Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah. “We chose Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of The White Snake as the first production in our completely redesigned Head Theater because it is a visually stunning piece. I know our audiences will be swept away with delight.”

Mystery and magic intertwine in this fantastical tale brought to life in grand spectacle in the newly renovated Head Theater. Originating from an ancient Chinese fable, The White Snake tells the story of animal spirits White Snake and Green Snake, who take human form as a beautiful woman and her sly servant. White Snake soon falls passionately in love with a poor fisherman, but their relationship is reviled by a conservative monk and tragedy lurks behind their newfound happiness.

Adapted by the award-winning playwright Mary Zimmerman—known for her stage adaptions of Metamorphoses, The Odysseyand The Jungle Book, and for Metropolitan Opera productions of Lucia di Lammermoor, Armida, La Sonnambula and the this year’s Rusalka—this production of The White Snake will be directed by Natsu Onoda Power, a Washington, DC-based author, playwright, director, designer and professor.

Power’s recent directing credits include Wind Me Up, Maria! A Go-Go Musical at Georgetown University; The T Party (which she also wrote) at Forum Theatre and Company One Theater Boston; A Trip to the Moon (which she wrote and illustrated) at Synetic Theatre; and the Elliot Norton Award-winning Astro Boy and the God of Comics (which she wrote) at Studio Theatre and Company One Theatre. She is also an associate professor in Georgetown’s Theater and Performance Studies program and the author of God of Comics: Osamu Tezuka and the Creation of Post World War II Manga.

“The power of this story is that it transcends everything that divides us, culturally, historically, politically,” said Power. “It is important to me, however, that we do not simply call the story ‘universal’— because that sounds like a move to ignore all cultural specificity and differences. It is the opposite: the characters clearly see their differences, and still make the commitment to love the other person, whatever it entails.”

The cast includes Aimé Donn Kelly* (White Snake), Eileen Rivera* (Green Snake), Joe Ngo* (Xu Xian), Peter Van Wagner*(Fa Hai),  Caitlin Cisco* (Ensemble), Samy el-Noury (Ensemble),Lucy Lavely* (Ensemble), Brett Messiora (Ensemble), Pooya Mohseni* (Ensemble), Linden Tailor* (Ensemble), Damian Thompson* (Ensemble), Jason Kao Hwang (Actor-Musician/Composer – violin/viola), Joshua Ziemann (Actor-Musician/Composer – marimba, percussion), Yukio Tsuji (Actor-Musician/Composer – shakuhachi, percussion).

The artistic team includes Mary Zimmerman (Playwright), Natsu Onoda Power (Director), Jeff Song (Actor-Musician/Musician/Music Director/Composer), Hana S. Kim (Scenic and Projection Designer), Nicole Wee (Costume Designer), Rui Rita (Lighting Designer), Alex Hawthorn (Sound Designer), Andrea “Dre” Moore (Puppet Designer and Constructor), Tommy Kurzman(Hair, Wig & Makeup Design), Rick Sordelet (Fight Director),Deanie Vallone (Production Dramaturg), Stephanie Klapper(Casting Director), Larry Smiglewski* (Stage Manager) andAlison Kochman* (Assistant Stage Manager).

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association

The White Snake opens Friday, March 3, with previews Feb. 24 to March 2, and closes Sunday, March 26. For more information, visit or call the box office at 410.332.0033. Press night is Friday, March 3.

The White Snake is made possible by Miles & Stockbridge PC and T. Rowe Price. The White Snake media partner is Maryland Public Television. Baltimore Center Stage is supported by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC), an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive. An agency of the Department of Business and Economic Development, the MSAC provides financial support and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations, units of government, colleges and universities for arts activities. Funding for the MSAC is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, and the Baltimore County Commission on Arts and Sciences. Center Stage’s 2016/17 Season is made possible by The Shubert Foundation and the Baltimore County Commission on Arts and Sciences.

About Baltimore Center Stage

Baltimore Center Stage is a professional, nonprofit institution committed to entertaining, engaging and enriching audiences through bold, innovative and thought-provoking classical and contemporary theater.

Named the State Theater of Maryland in 1978, Baltimore Center Stage has steadily grown as a leader in the national regional theater scene. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE and Managing Director Michael Ross, Baltimore Center Stage is committed to creating and presenting a diverse array of world premieres and exhilarating interpretations of established works.

Baltimore Center Stage believes in access for all—creating a welcoming environment for everyone who enters its theater doors and, at the same time, striving to meet audiences where they are. In addition to its Mainstage, Off Center and Family Series productions in the historic Mount Vernon neighborhood, Baltimore Center Stage ignites conversations among a global audience through digital initiatives, which explore how technology and the arts intersect. The theater also nurtures the next generation of artists and theater-goers through the Young Playwrights Festival, Student Matinee Series and many other educational programs for students, families and professionals.

Daddy and Daughter Holiday Retreat: Hello Fort Lauderdale!


Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

Well, this is the second of such trips where I split my two girls up for a one-on-one session with their Fit Father to create individual memories and experiences. I leave all work behind while letting them choose the destination and timing, as well as their respective itineraries. It’s all about them. [Read more…]

Fun in the great outdoors at the Adventure Park at Long Island!


There’s nothing like a day at The Adventure Park at Long Island! Within seven beautiful acres of woodland you will find our amazing “aerial forest park.” Come to the Adventure Park to experience “adventure in the trees” on your own or with friends, family and parties. Ages seven to adult. [Read more…]

2017 Destination Races: Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon


It’s the second most wonderful time of the year…. Registration for the 14th annual Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon and GunBunFunRun 5K opens December 1st. The race sold out in a record 17 minutes in 2016, so be sure to pay attention to the registration instructions below as the process has changed from previous years. Next year’s race date is Sunday July 16th.


Here’s the skinny:
INDIVIDUAL + VIP and TEAM registration open on the SAME DAY!

Individual + VIP registration is on a first come, first serve basis and will sell out in minutes. Read registration rules and tips below.

All legitimate teams of 6 or more people that register within this time frame will be allowed to register (see Rules and Tips below). Team registrations are $5 less than individual registrations.

Registration RULES and TIPS:

Individual + VIP
Do NOT open multiple browsers or attempt to register early! This will only slow the process down and potentially freeze you out.
Once you have entered all your information on the registration page, only push the submit button once. If you push it more than once, you will get charged more than once!
Once the race is sold out, you may sign up for our 2nd Chance Drawing free of charge. The sooner you register to be on the list, the better your chances for getting into the race via the 2nd Chance Drawing which will be held on March 1, 2017. At least 100 spots will be released on that date via a drawing. Winners will be notified on the same day.

Team registration

To sign up a team, first have a TEAM CAPTAIN register the team. They will need to pay for one registration and establish a team name and a required passcode for additional team members.

Team registration is open for two weeks – until November 25th. You MUST have a minimum of 6 members on a team by the time of closing on the 25th at 11:59pm PST.  Additional members will be charged when they register for the team.

If your team does not have a minimum of 6 members at the time of closing each team member will be refunded their entry fee less a $10 processing fee.  You will not be signed up as an individual in the race!

Teams may have a maximum of 20 people. If you are going to exceed 20 members you must set up an additional team with at least 6 members. You may transfer members from a team with over 20 to a 2nd team in order to attain 6 members.

Team registration is scheduled to stay open until November 25th. However, we suggest registering your team as soon as possible.  In the unlikely event that we far exceed our team registrations spots, we may be forced to close team registration before November 25th. This is not likely to happen but we reserve the right to close it in order to not exceed our total registration limit.

Thank you for your understanding as we try to make this process as stress-free and fair as possible for our valued customers. Please note that Race Extras events will be available for purchase at a later date. For more information, please visit our website. For any questions not answered on our website, email GOOD LUCK!

[Read more…]

Third Annual Nomadic Journey: Mountain Biking Cambodia’s Ancient Temples of Angkor


Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

Greetings from Cambodia for Fit Fathers’ third annual nomadic expedition, a rediscovery of life, newfangled cultures, freedom from attachment and enlightenment. I’ve been traveling for over 20 years now but just recently began traversing the globe to indigenous countries on solo missions. From Phuket to Nepal, the appeal of simple life, thankfulness, ancient spices and herbs and nurturing foods entices my pallet. So I continue digging deeper for truth, perspective and the freedom of life while doing so on a mountain bikes utilizing the best local tour guides in the field. Welcome to my world.

After a 25-hour commute starting on United Airlines from Washington Dulles to San Francisco to Korea and then on to Phnom Penh, Cambodia I landed rather restless. As usual it was confounding circumstances at the airport when I arrived at 11:30 pm so I feverishly picked out my $9 Tuk Tuk driver and headed to the Grand Boutique II in Phnom Penh for two nights. The streets from the airport into town were pretty dusty and awaiting trash truck pickups. The open ride let me get a feel for the city before the next day’s explorations. Food cart vendors were open for business and those that weren’t were preparing for the next day’s busy day. Keep in mind mopeds and Tuk Tuks rule this town like most cities in Southeast Asia. The 3-star, boutique hotel was a small, quaint spot situated in the middle of the hustle off of 5th street. For about $50 a night it surprisingly included complimentary breakfast (exotic fruit platter, fresh mango juice and vegetable stir fry rice), free WiFi and instantaneous customer service. Mental note, trust is an important trait for travelers and jetsetters so your senses must be keen and instincts impeccable to avoid ominous scenarios. You will never see me rocking headphones to drown out the environment while I’m away.


I popped up bright and early and went for a run to view the bustle of Cambodia’s busy capital streets. By far, running and biking are the most strategic ways to enjoy new lands while simultaneously energizing the body. With 90-degree weather the entire 10-day stay I promised myself to spend the journey outdoors soaking up Vitamin D. First up was a trot to the National Museum which is actually a temple rich with Cambodian history and relics. Later that night I caught a traditional and magical dance performance put on by the Cambodian Living Arts which was the highlight of my day. The revelry is fixated on love, food and peace. For example, in flourishing countries the masses are devoted to earning their next million, obtaining elaborate jewelry, luxury cars, fancy shoes, expensive purses and the grandest houses, while the poor Cambodian farmers dance fervently in solidarity — Beh Krawine Dance — to bless their crops and well-being. It’s the unpretentious things in life that generate happiness.

Next up was a short flight on Bayon Airlines to Siem Reap for day 1 of mountain biking (MTBing) while visiting the ancient temples of Angkor. After extensive research I selected Cambodia Cycling as my tour guides of choice. The 3-day ride totaled about $600 and included 3-star accommodation, an experienced cycling guide, your bike (Trek or Giant) full board meals (breakfasts, lunch and dinner), boat trip on Tonlé Sap Lake to see the floating fishing village, a support van and a 3-day Angkor pass. In fact, Dara, Son and Greg ascertained that every need imaginable was handled under their care including the litany of vegan grub in the area which I have a penchant for. Directly from the airport we hit the ground pedaling to the temples. Combining the love for cycling with nomadic travel is the best and most modest act a spiritual outlier can ask for.

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The route took us to Prasat Kravan Temple, the Buddhist Temple Banteay Kdei (meaning a citadel of chambers) and the infamous Ta Prohm Temple which is adorned by the roots of enormous fig trees and gigantic creepers. It was built in the 12th century by King Jayavarman VII who is discernibly looked upon by historians as the most formidable Khmer monarch. Keep in mind roughly 80% of all Cambodians are Buddhists. We also admired the Bayon Temple and the temple complex of the breathtaking Angkor Wat. On the gentle ride back to the Angkor Boutique Villa I felt like a kite dancing in a hurricane, flowing freely with thoughts as pervasive as the Andaman Sea. For dinner Son reserved a table at Chamkar Vegetarian Restaurant where the open atmosphere was meditative since I was seated next to the garden. Trees grow inside the eco-friendly eatery and bamboo dividers can be rolled up or down depending on the weather. Chamkar serves fine and genuine foods using fresh, local veggies and as organic as possible. Yes, the meals were light, refreshing and pleasing.

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Each day we road out from my art deco suite to a uniquely, mystic pocket of the country ripe with fascination. For the next 48 hours in Siem Reap I embraced adoration of living in the countryside to explore the simple life and the floating village where the locals (mostly Vietnamese fishers) dwell and work. In the country a little girl eats her rice in what seems to be a private abode behind a bush while roosters scream in excitement and rustic bike shops tend to the villagers number one mean of transportation. Both the Cambodians and I were equally curious with each other. Humbled is an understatement, especially since the people here survive off the crops they grow. After MTBing I went back to the hotel to relax, find more veggie grub and attend another dance and arts show later that night. Certainly I will return again to this part of the world, possibly Vietnam.

The nomadic escape on two wheels was another unforgettable experience that I will cherish dearly. No man or woman should ever fear the unknown. Self-discovery is a powerful awareness tool.

Summer Road Trip to Six Flags Great Adventure


Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

I can still recall the fond and youthful memories of my 8th grade Spring Break trip with classmates to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ. In fact I recently posted some of those classic photos on facebook to a cadre of the crew featured in the epic shots. It’s hard to believe we got away with that outlandish gear and crazy haircuts. Nevertheless, history does repeat itself as I witnessed equivalent energetic styles and innocent demeanors from today’s kids including my two daughters who had a blast at the amusement park.

It was Mika’s 13th birthday weekend and she requested Six Flags once again since this is her favorite summer pastime. Typically we take her out of the country for the celebration such as London and Paris in 2015. However, Mika wanted to honor her first days as a teen with friends and family. So I scheduled a 7-passenger SUV for the 4-hour road trip that just so happened to take place on the hottest Saturday of the summer with the heat index reaching 100 degrees. All I could think of was how much Vitamin D we would absorb from the sun.


We arrived right on time at 10am since the parked opens at 10:30am on Saturdays. Right off the bat, Mika and her sister Aya begin screaming at the site of Kingda Ka, the world’s fastest and tallest coaster. Earlier in the week they bribed me into riding with them but I immediately tried to backtrack after witnessing the initial drop in person. Located in The Golden Kingdom, I was pretty thankful that it was closed during our visit. Their other favorite, The Joker, was also inoperable for reasons not disclosed so we focused on a few smaller rides while kicking it in Lakefront. The family crew jumped on the Buccaneer — my all time favorite boat ride — and then the spinning Swashbuckler. Everyone came off dizzy and wobbly. To cool off a bit more we entered the 242 foot-tall tower dubbed Sky Screamer which sends you 24 stories high and begins spinning your swing at a rapid 40 mph! Afterwards it was time for a water and bench break.

There was no need for the $50 Flash Pass since the weather kept many indoors so everyone got to enjoy more rides than initially calculated. Especially since a good amount of the top rides have 30-minute to 60-minute waiting periods. In the Plaza Del Carnival we warmed up on the El Diablo loop coaster before rocking the El Toro. I absolutely love classic wooden roller coasters since they are a reminder of my teenage years. Mika had us wait longer to hop in the front car and experience life in the fast lane. Wow! This bad boy has some of the most thrilling and fastest, twisting turns I’ve ever been on. Afterwards it was time for bean burritos at Macho Nacho while taking in the sounds of authentic Mexican music.


With so much entertainment and a plethora of rides to enjoy time flew by like it does when you’re having fun. When planning a trip visit to ascertain you don’t miss out on any alluring activities. Choose between Hurricane Harbor while relishing water activities, SeaFari Theater, Wilderness Theater, Adventure Theater or the Safari Off Road Adventure to commingle with more than 1,200 animals. Or you can simply focus on Six Flags’ specialty themes like Holiday in the Park and Fright Night.

Whatever thrills you seek in life best believe Six Flags Great Adventure has the antidote. It sure did for the Rawlins Family as we ended summer 2016 with a bang!

Couples in Costa Rica: Pura Vida at The Westin Golf Resort & Spa Playa Conchal


Experienced by Kimatni and Misa Rawlins

It’s always a perfect occasion to visit Costa Rica. After our first stay five years ago my wife Misa and I knew it was only a matter of time before we returned to the majestic lands of Central America. With so many work obligations and parenting responsibilities to tend to back home in Silver Spring, MD, it is a refreshing delight escaping without our children. This year for our anniversary we chose the Guanacaste region and invited friends who share similar passions in life such as traversing the world.

Since we are platinum members with Starwood the goal was to secure one of their all-inclusive resorts that catered to our needs for this specific journey to paradise. Located in the northeast quadrant of Costa Rica, The Westin Golf Resort & Spa Playa Conchal would become our home away from home for the next six days. In North Guanacaste explorers will enjoy idyllic panoramas of the clear blue Pacific Ocean, natural landscapes, semi-active volcanoes, savannahs, tropical dry forests and national parks where much of the Costa Rican wildlife can be sought by venturing off on a day trip.


We begin the getaway from Washington, Dulles on a United Airlines flight which connected in Houston before leaving for Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport. A rental car from Avis was reserved and caused complications due to undisclosed fees and a higher rental price than first negotiated, but once we handled that scenario it took us about an hour to drive to the resort where heaven on Earth patiently awaited our arrival.

The entire property was similar to a California beach neighborhood where each resident relished his/her condo, suite or small villa. Even the cobblestoned paths were named like streets and avenues. I was in awe of the fresh vegetation including mango and banyan trees, a small pond outside our building, the majestic adult pool replete with a swim-up bar, a multitude of restaurants, Westin Workout Center, Westin Kids Club, the Wellness Spa and of course Playa Conchal’s very own Conchal Beach which seduces with its pristine white sand curated from little crushed shells. Moreover, the sounds of various birds and insects was delightful and kept in tune with the naturalistic environs of Costa Rica. Also, I aesthetically appreciated the omnipresent teepee theme of the main lobby and some of the eateries.


Our superior abode on the Royal Beach Club side of the resort teased us during the entire stay. Before you enter the quarters a miniature rainforest and waterfall grabs your attention to notify you that Costa Rica is omnipresent. The deluxe suite was as opulent as it gets featuring two full baths — one of which is the size of the bedroom with dual showers and dual sinks — a Bose Sound Link Mini and sliding doors in both the living room and master bedroom that leads to the extensive patio which in turn hosts a bathing tub. Westin Hotels are infamous for their Heavenly Beds so best believe we rested like newborns each night. Furthermore, the cuisine was impeccable. Each morning our butler made sure fresh fruit smoothies were prepared and delivered before we hit the gym or the trails. Remember, vacation is to relax the mind not the body. Bamboo turned out to be our favorite dinner place since it offered the most veggie options.

With so many exciting things to do on property it was difficult venturing offsite to see the rest of the eco-friendly area. But that’s exactly what we did. Out first destination was a visit to the beach town of Tamarindo. The Westin offers round trip service for $20 during the day and $25 by night, but of course we had our own vehicle. Here is where you experience musical vibrations, extended nightlife, surfing activities and endless places to wine and dine. We chose Sprout for the afternoon meal and were all graciously satisfied. There is something about Costa Rican bean and veggie tacos that I couldn’t get enough of. Additionally we dined Papaya for fresh greens, beans, brown rice and veggie tofu scramble. Then you have the all vegan La Cuchara Verde which sends messages of love, health and peace. No matter where we land the goal is to secure foods that energize, enliven and strengthen. As Misa poignantly stated, “Another day, another adventure in Costa Rica. The vegan food here is ridiculously delicious….oh man oh man, yummy in my tummy!”


Costa Rica is about the size of West Virginia and consists of more than 970 species of birds like the hummingbird that can fly backwards. Pineapple is their number one export, not coffee. Farmers also produce and grow cantaloupe, honeydew melon, watermelon and sugarcane. A partnership with the Westin allowed us to see more sights by way of Swiss Travel. From white water rafting, to zip lining to various nomadic adventures there are a plethora of activities to fulfill your heart’s desires. While the ladies sunbathed at the pool Eric and I scheduled the ATV tour with our guide Bernal Jaen Santana who escorted us to Playa Brasilito, the Pedregosa area, a host of beaches and around the jungle to integrate with the congo monkeys.

Next up was the half-day Palo Verde National Park and river boat tour where we learned all about the mighty crocodile, some of the migrating birds species and a few of the 144 classes of snakes (no anacondas or pythons here). Palo Verde become a National Park in 1972 and protects 23,000 acres of land. It was fascinating witnessing the commingling of life in this natural habitat.

I’m Happy. The amazing perspective received when vacationing with your spouse is the rekindled awareness of love, deep conversations and silent moments of eye contact which collectively strengthen you as a couple. Costa Rica showed me how much I have and how important Misa Rawlins is to me as a wife, mother and best friend. Every moment together adds to the constellation of our shared history and ultimately makes us stronger as a team. Pura Vida!


Verbolten®, Busch Gardens’ thrilling multi-launch roller coaster, takes passengers on a multi-sensory dash through the Black Forest with multiple launches, environmental-theme elements, sound and light effects and high-speed turns that must be experienced to believe. ©2016 SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Verbolten®, Busch Gardens’ thrilling multi-launch roller coaster, takes passengers on a multi-sensory dash through the Black Forest with multiple launches, environmental-theme elements, sound and light effects and high-speed turns that must be experienced to believe. ©2016 SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

   Busch Gardens announced today a new wooden roller coaster is coming to its collection of world-class thrill rides in spring 2017.  The family thriller will be the Virginia theme park’s first wooden coaster and eighth roller coaster in total – and will be designed as the world’s first “crowdsourced” ride.

     In an unusual industry move, the park is announcing the new attraction much earlier than typical so that fans will be able to help “decide the ride” including opportunities to vote on attraction details, contribute to theme elements and shape the marketing campaign.  The first such opportunity kicked off today, inviting fans to select the ride’s name.

     “Busch Gardens has a reputation for creating unique ride experiences, and our new family coaster will certainly continue that tradition,” said Larry Giles, vice president of engineering.  “The dynamics of a wooden coaster, combined with the many ways it will interact with the terrain and nearby attractions, will make this a one-of-a-kind thrill.”

[Read more…]

The Road to Cali Roots 2016: It’s a Movement


Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins, Photos by Gary  Joseph & Josué Rivas

The constellation of musical memories and positive vibes from the 2016 California Roots music festival in Monterey is as palpable and energizing now as the very day I first stepped onto the scene to welcome its reggae radiance into my world. The atmospheric euphoria from thousands of showgoers, electrifying performers and ubiquitous “one love” is incomparable to any festival I have witnessed in the past. The experience over the three days during the festive Memorial Day Weekend extravaganza will always be unforgettable.

Our journey began from Washington, DC with an early morning Thursday flight to San Francisco where we would pick up a 2016 Optima SX from our media friends at Kia. Of course music is one of the brand’s pillars so it made sense to add them to our entertaining formula. To get acclimated with some of the previously unfamiliar artists such as reggae, soulful singer/writer Kimie Miner and Lifted MASTERS, we played their latest tunes from the Kia’s Harman Kardon QLS premium sound system. Expressive tunes like Serious Business, Stop Now and New Age kept Gary and I animated during the 2-hour drive. Not to be outdone by the music scene, healthy eating is a key for us as well, especially on the road. So we stopped at LYFE Kitchen in Palo Alto and chowed down on the Ancient Grain Stir Fry. In addition, the culinary theme was replicated throughout Cali Roots from food vendors who cooked up fresh goodness and purity to nourish the crowds.


Lodging choices will be one of your main topics of consideration if you are driving from afar or flying in. Many people camp, some choose the motels and lodges near the Monterey Fairgrounds and others go with a host hotel like the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa where Gary and I stayed. It was perfect and provided the amenities active individuals need when traveling. Our 3-night stay included parking, breakfast and workout facilities. After settling in we took a quick nap and then popped up and proceeded to Planet Gemini for the opening Late Night Session to jam with a few bands such as Soul Majestic who prepared us for Friday’s all day set.

For each of the three festival days performances where held inside the fairgrounds on either the OG Stage, The Cali Roots Stage or in The Bowl which is where most of the electrification takes place. With a pretty impeccable schedule, thirteen acts and four DJs rocked the crowds on each day so your itinerary can be busy or you can take it easy with a few groups here and there. On Friday, day one, we made sure to catch J Boog, Barrington Levy and of course Slightly Stoopid, the Ocean Beach, California band led by co-founders and instrumentalists Kyle McDonald and Miles Doughty. They had The Bowl on fire Friday evening!

Cali Roots is special for more than just the music. The organizers are conscious, earth friendly thinkers and influenced us with healthy habits such as the water refill station, the Sip and Pose morning yoga segments and the Green Pedal Couriers’ bike valet service to encourage exercise, minimize traffic congestion and reduce the carbon footprint of attendees. As well, thoughtful vendors were omnipresent and ranged from visual artists selling paintings and artwork to reggae apparel and designers to healthy food stations with my favorite being Strictly Vegan Jamaican Cuisine.

As usual, and before we headed over to the Monterey Fairgrounds on Friday the team worked out with top effort. First was a 30-minute strength training session in the Hyatt Regency Monterey’s “Stay Fit” gym, then a 3-mile run around the 22-acre property and lastly finished up with sprints in the courtyard. Plus, we walked a mile to the concerts and back and traversed the grounds for hours. On Saturday morning I needed more Slightly Stoopid so I ran 8 coastal miles to the vibes of “2Am” on repeat. That left me feeling refreshed, energized and recharged for the roots rock performances by Tarrus Riley, Nattali Rize, Stephen Marley and Damian Marley. Nattali is rising and has toured alongside the likes of SOJA, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Katchafire, Third World, J Boog, Julian Marley and Chronixx. Her repatriating activism and mental slavery breaking significances by way of “Generations Will Rize” featuring my man Kabaka Pyramid are trending and perfect for any rebel soul raging against the system. “It’s about being part of a movement, shifting perception and helping to amplify pathways to higher consciousness. It’s also about chanting down outdated systems that keep us stuck in a paradigm of mental slavery and spiritual oppression, because they’re not going to chant down themselves,” stated Rize.


Tarrus Riley, who I had the pleasure of meeting during his debut at Jamaica’s Reggae Sumfest, performed on The Cali Roots Stage in the prime of the afternoon to a very eclectic crowd of reggae lovers. Riley’s energy — especially on the track “Powerful” — was customarily upbeat as he bounced around from the stage to the crowd holding hands with fans. He also brought out J Boog briefly erupting the crowd.

After Tarrus’ exit I had an interview with Kumar from Raging Fyah who just released their third studio album dubbed “Everlasting.” Still captivated by the enlightening lyrics of “Judgment Day,” the band members, who write the songs in unison based on equality, love, Jah and political positions, maintained equivalent and emotionally, similar lyrics as “Judgment Day.” They were excited to play on Sunday alongside a star-studded lineup including Stick Figure, Tribal Seeds, Rebelution, Gondwana, Protoje and many more. I immediately took to the music from the title track “Everlasting,” to “Ready For Love,” and “Live Your Life” featuring J Boog and Busy Signal.


Stephen “Ragga” Marley and Damian Marley kick started Saturday evening with orgasmic performances that of course featured some of their father’s music. Jr. Gong surprised us by letting Black-Am-I set the mood with his hit “In The Ghetto” before blessing us with his presence. Damian is paramount to the Marley Movement and its profound, global influence on the people because he knows how to bridge generational gaps with culture reggae, dancehall, Hip Hop and even a little pop. More importantly, he is the closest Marley to his dad who also releases vitality and verve through dancing, jumping and waving. Damian is simply magnetic.


Cali Roots is one for the ages and has left an everlasting impression on me. I’ve been looking for a reggae festival this special and now know what I will be doing annually on Memorial Day Weekend. Enjoy the photo gallery. One Love!