Bluegrass at the Beach was formed in 1992. . .

when Stephen Ruffo, a resident of the North Oregon Coast (Manzanita) found out that the HayStack program run thru Portland State was going to shut down its Bluegrass Program held in Cannon Beach. Stephen had attended some of the activities that were open to the public and was disappointed to find out it was going away. The Haystack Program was nationally popular and had such great instructors including Hot Rize, John Reishman and Laurie Lewis. This was where Stephen first met Laurie.

He contacted Portland State and they told him that they could support the Instructors but not the support staff. He asked how big was support staff and they told him 17 people. That was at Portland State and included staff for many programs besides the Haystack program. Some of those programs still run today.

Well Stephen thought, heck 17 staff, maybe I could do it was just some volunteer help. Stephen talked with the Oregon Bluegrass Association and enlisted the help of Claire Levine and a couple others and off we went. The OBA became the non profit umbrella under which the beach operated but as it grew it became a problem for the bookkeeping for the OBA and did not really produce any income, with many years Stephen not even making an compensation so a few years ago the OBA and Stephen decided that it was best to just become a private enterprise. The OBA still supports the Beach with advertising and other great things it has available to it.

Year one in 1992 had 25 musicians and the following staff:
FIDDLE, Laurie Lewis
GUITAR, Peter McLaughlin
BANJO,Tony Furtado
DOBRO, Sally Van Meter
Year 2 had 27 musicians and the following staff:
FIDDLE, Laurie Lewis
BASS, Cary Black
GUITAR, Peter McLaughlin
GUITAR, Dale Adkins
BANJO, Craig Smith
DOBRO, Sally Van Meter

Eventually Bluegrass at the Beach grew to around 80 students, the maximum that we had set for ourselves in the current facility. Laurie and Tom have been with me all along with laurie being the Program Coordinator, helping to choose staff.


Our Artwork has mainly been done by Kenny Fox, a stained glass artist and old friend of mine who is also a great painter.

We developed the theme of the Woody car, a classic 50’s and 60’s stationwagon that became popular for the surfers and instead of a Surfboard on the top, we put the Bass in classic Bill Monroe style.

We have also always been at the beach in Manzanita, Oregon on the North Coast but over the years, Manzanita has changed dramatically and it becomes harder to find our space out there. More changes are happening at the Nehalem Bay State Park that may make it easier for us to camp all together.

Also we have traditionally done an opening party on our first nite with a fresh Tuna Fish Barbeque and have invited all of the town folks that have supported our camp. One person at Manzanita Seafood provides us with 100 lbs of tuna fish, caught the day before for whole sale cost. Her father in law used to catch the fish for us and Stephen marinades it with his special ginger lime marinade.

Bob and Donella Evoniuk have been Stephens main support staff for many years. Bob was part of Bluegrass at the Beach and Stephen brought Donella out one year to help and Bob and Donella fell in love in Stephens kitchen while making the Artist dinner for the pre planning meeting. Within a couple years, they were married with the ceremony being performed at the Beach the night before Bluegrass at the Beach began. It was on a Sand Dune overlooking the beautiful ocean with Stephen presiding at the preacher. David Grisman came to the beach in 1998 to bring his son to study with Todd Phillip, who was an original member of the David Grisman Quintet in 1976. The 2nd year that David came back, 1999, he met Tracy who was a friend of Stephen’s from Port Townsend and was staying in Stephen’s house, helping out. They met and were married in 2007, actually in Port Townsend, with once again, Stephen acting as the preacher. David was so in love with Bluegrass at the Beach that he wrote and recorded a song by that title.

One year Rob Ickes was married and spent his honeymoon at the Beach with us.

And these stories go on. We had one good friend, Ken Milam, who came for years. One year, Ken was sick on our last few days of camp and eventually was diognosied with a terminal illness and passed away a short time later. We established the Ken Milam Scholarship fund in his memory and it still exists today, although since we are not a non profit, we do not actively solicit donations. Many ask about helping out so we may become more active with financial help.

Our future, as in many things, tries to wrestle with the changes that are happening to Manzanita. I look for ways to expand, make it better, grow the offerings, etc. Lately I have been trying to form a Bluegrass Symposium to study Bluegrass music. Kind of like the colleges that are offering degrees in Bluegrass music, but in a week long camp instead. We will see what develops.

Stephen also was part of the Wintergrass organization having been on its Board of Directors for several years until becoming it’s Executive Director a few years back.

Stephen also developed the Mandolin Symposium in 2005 along with David Grisman, Mike Marshall and Chris Thile.

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