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Reggae in the Hills begins with Durst and Smith

Jay Smith, Bert with Stage Media, Scott Durst
Jay Smith, Bert with Stage Media, Scott Durst
Stage Media, James LeDeau

We have Ben and Jerry for the gourmet ice cream lovers, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire for lovers of Hollywood and dance, Abbot and Costello, Black and Decker, Presidents and First Ladies and so many other partnerships and teams that are nationally recognized. Scott and Jay most likely won’t be on a label for a pint of ice cream, won’t become comedy legends or dance stars or sit at the head of Congress but their partnership is working some big magic in the Reggae festival scene.

Marlon Asher will perform at the 2014 RITH
RITH, Marlon Asher

Over 23 years ago, Scott Durst and Jay Smith met and became steadfast friends and business partners. Together and separately they have successfully operated many music and entertainment businesses including Small World Productions in San Francisco (1992-1996), Small World Studios in the Los Angeles and Venice Beach areas (1996-2000), night clubs featuring Reggae, Rock and Metal, an LED video and projection stage design firm, a clothing company, private sector event companies specializing in corporate events, big pool parties and weddings, as well as managing bands and producing events.

Both Scott and Jay have always had a “blast at Reggae fests” and this made them want to produce one of their own. This desire gave birth to Reggae in the Hills which initially required over eleven months of hard work to produce. In June 2012, the first Reggae in the Hills took place at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds and drew what could easily be considered a massive crowd for a first year run of such an event. Their mutual love for Reggae as well as their extensive experience in the entertainment world and event production has turned it into a project becoming instantly recognized for its quality.

Scott says he “grew up all over California from San Francisco to Marin and Sonoma County and … San Diego” as well as various places in Texas. His parents moved often in both states and through these journeys he “has established many roots” which now makes him a “Texifornian or a Calixaian.” Today he travels often from Austin, Texas, where his family finally set root, to Calaveras where Jay Smith currently resides. Jay grew up in the east bay area of California (Danville) and eventually made his home in the area where Reggae in the Hills now takes place.

According to Scott, Jay is “a big part of the Calaveras community” and between Jay’s “local ties” and Scott’s “contacts in the reggae community” it was a natural step to bring their dream of creating a “cutting edge Reggae Fest” to fruition in this area. The idea was to create “something new, stylistic and refreshing” for the Calaveras area they love so much.

Durst and Smith make such a great team that Reggae in the Hills is growing so fast that it is exceeding their goals. There were approximately 2,700 attendees in 2012, 3,600 in 2013 and an anticipated 5,000-6,000 in their third year taking place on June 13-15. They have partnered with the Calaveras County Fairgrounds for their “80 acres of pure beauty.” Due to this partnering, RITH is able to feature “indoor and outdoor stages, RV hookups, the largest campground of any California festival, plenty of power, water and restrooms.” The festival is “nestled between Yosemite and Lake Tahoe, in historic Angels Camp and north of Sonora on Highway 49.”

Durst says, “The fest is just as much about the beautiful Calaveras County as it is the music. We would like to see a long term growth in tourism here from folks being introduced through RITH.” The Durst-Smith team is proud to be able to produce a festival with “a full service concert/event facility high in the hills of Northern California with scenic views and plenty of parking.” They feel it’s “perfect for this type of annual event and C.C.F. was at one time known as ‘The Best Venue in California.’ Our goal is to reinstate those comments and bring C.C.F. back to where it used to be.”

Shared passions and combined skills and experience bring the Durst-Smith team together with Jay facilitating “bookings, vendors, and venue needs” and Scott “mainly focusing on media, marketing, branding and production.” They say they “came into the scene with the notion of wanting to help expand it, not take from it.” Part of the process of helping both the Calaveras and Reggae artist community expand is their focus on promoting outside the Reggae scene in the hope of bringing new people into the Reggae fest market. It is a big project for them and they take it very seriously but, at the same time, “want to make the most fun out of it too.” “We just want people to have the time of their lives and we want to help them with those memories.” Please see Reggae in the Hills begins with Durst and Smith part 2 for the remainder of this article. Click here.

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