Monte Rio Variety Show Sign

While people won't be heading to Bohemian Grove for the annual July encampment, the Monte Rio Variety Show will continue.

Private summer encampment is canceled while Monte Rio Variety Show goes virtual

In this summer of COVID-19 with many canceled events, add the mid-July Bohemian Grove encampment and related events to the list. The 2,600 acre redwood grove, outdoor theaters, cabins and camps will all be vacant, as the club has officially canceled the event due to safety precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Sam Singer, a spokesman for the club.

Along with the exclusive events being shuttered for the year, so too are the annual protests at the gates of the exclusive Bohemian Grove along the Russian River in Monte Rio. Staged off-and-on since 1980 by the Bohemian Grove Action Network, the protests will not be necessary this July. Also canceled is a controversial $150,000 security contract between the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department and the private all-male club.

Also not happening will be dozens of private jet landings at the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport when the wealthy Bohemians would usually land and get ferried by limousine to the west county retreat. Dozens of rounds of golf at Northwood Golf Club, nearby dinner outings and accidental sightings of Boho celebrities like Clint Eastwood, George W. Bush or Henry Kissinger won’t be happening, either.

But, the 109th Monte Rio Variety Show is still on tap, although it will be taking place “virtually” online and not at the Monte Rio Amphitheater. A “live” auction will open July 16 with over two dozen auction packages of wine, golf outings, dinners and gift certificates. The auction closes July 23, the date the live variety show was originally scheduled, according to Michele McDonell, event coordinator. Proceeds will benefit the Monte Rio School music programs, St. Catherine’s Church, Monte Rio Fire Services Foundation. Bidders can participate on the Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts of the Monte Rio Variety Show.

“Our goal is $25,000 but we don’t really have a benchmark. We hope some people will want to make a donation in place of the show tickets they would have purchased,” said McDonell.

In past years, musicians, comedians and other talented Bohemian Club members would perform at the popular outdoor show, held at the end of the club’s two-week encampment. Video clips and photos of past shows will be viewable on the show’s website (

The Bohemian Grove was established in 1870 by the Bohemian Club of San Francisco. It was originally a club for literary, cultural and arts types such as Jack London and Ambrose Bierce. The club roster today totals about 2,700 men, including past heads of state, corporate titans, retired military officers and the newly rich of Silicon Valley.

The Action Network’s annual pickets and protests at the gated entrance to the grove aimed to bring national attention to the “secret dealings” of the world’s most powerful men behind locked barriers. There is a verified legend that The Manhattan Plan to build the world’s first atomic bomb was hatched at the grove by Ernest Lawrence, J. Robert Oppenheimer and others. Past or future presidents Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan were regular attendees.

Last year, two county supervisors, Shirley Zane and Lynda Hopkins, created controversy when they objected to an annual security contract between the county sheriff’s office and the private all-male club. Both women objected to the county’s association with an organization than bans female members. The contract provided for extra patrols at the grove’s entrance and other security services, involving two to six deputies during the two-week encampment.

Last year’s contract was approved by the supervisors after being convinced it was a profitable revenue source for the county. A sheriff’s department spokesman this week confirmed no extra security services would be deployed this year.

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