Behind the Lens: The Oldest Free Music Festival in America

Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza may be better known, but this festival has been going strong since 1924.
by | August 2018
(Bruce Herwig)

It’s the season of outdoor music festivals. There’s Coachella in Southern California, Bonnaroo in Tennessee, Austin City Limits in Texas, Lollapalooza in Chicago, and lots more. But few have been running as long as the Redlands Bowl Summer Music Festival in Redlands, Calif.

Held two nights a week all summer long, it’s the longest-running annual free music festival in the U.S. Started in 1924, the festival is approaching a century of free music.

Initially, performers made do with a wooden stage until a prominent citizen donated funds in 1930 to design and build the stage in use today, known as the Redlands Bowl. Besides the music festival, the city-owned park hosts lots of other events throughout the year.

The music festival may be more sedate than, say, Bonnaroo. With performances ranging from the Beach Boys to jazz to Vivaldi concertos to Polynesian dance troupes, it just might be more ecletic, too.

David Kidd | Photojournalist / Storyteller |