Bluegrass in the Country celebrates another year of great music fundraising for a great cause

Singer Marie Bottrell, her backup singer Islander Debbie Robinson and her Manitoulin backup band pose for a photo at the photo booth at Bluegrass in the Country. photo by Robin Burridge

PROVIDENCE BAY—Attendance was high at this year’s annual Bluegrass in the Country, featuring award winning bands such as The Abrams and Marie Bottrell.

“It was a fantastic weekend,” organizer John Featherstone told The Expositor. “We had good weather—it didn’t start to sprinkle Friday night until the last song.”

Mr. Featherstone said that it was a busy year, with attendance up and more trailers than ever before.

Kelsey Barss thought purchasing a CD from her favourite bluegrass band would be the highlight of her day, but she was over the moon to have a picture taken with  The Abrams (John and James) to top off her Bluegrass in the Country experience. photo Peggy Smith
Kelsey Barss thought purchasing a CD from her favourite bluegrass band would be the highlight of her day, but she was over the moon to have a picture taken with  The Abrams (John and James) to top off her Bluegrass in the Country experience.
photo Peggy Smith

“The crowd really like (headliners) The Abrams,” said Mr. Featherstone. “They were a friendly group who commented how much they loved Manitoulin and our trailer stage, saying it was the type of stage they grew up playing on. They even changed up their set, playing old bluegrass favourites for the crowd. Everyone had a great time.”

Friday performers included SweetGrass, Canadian Country Music Association winner Marie Bottrell and the Canucky Bluegrass Boys, while Saturday’s lineup included The Nelson Family, Sweet Grass, Jim Beech and Ben Lentir, Rhyme N’ Reason, Robbie Shawana, Marie Bottrell, The Abrams and the Canucky Bluegrass Boys. The Nelson Family and Rhyme N’ Reason performed again on Sunday.

“All the acts really brought their ‘A’ game,” said Mr. Featherstone. “I travel around checking them out ahead of time, but it seems like when they perform for us, they really give it their all.”

Bluegrass in the Country started in 2010 as a fundraiser for the Manitoulin Special Olympics (MSO). There were eight trailers the first year and a few hundred people, but the festival has grown into one of the very best events on the bluegrass circuit in Ontario and the main fundraiser for the MSO.

Square dancing has become somewhat of a tradition for the Special Olympians at Bluegrass in the Country. Skirts were flying as Fred Hunter called three square dances on Saturday afternoon. photo by Peggy Smith
Square dancing has become somewhat of a tradition for the Special Olympians at Bluegrass in the Country. Skirts were flying as Fred Hunter called three square dances on Saturday afternoon.
photo by Peggy Smith

“We had people from all across Ontario this year—from Ottawa, Milton, St. Joseph’s Island and the London area,” said Mr. Featherstone. “We are never going to be a 500 trailer festival like some of the bigger ones in Canada,  but we have earned ourselves a good reputation in the bluegrass circle, with many of the performers our best ambassadors.”

Mr. Featherstone said he already has three-quarters of the acts booked for next year and is excited for another great festival.

A large crowd came out for this year’s Blue Grass in the Country, especially Saturday evening for Marie Bottrell and headliners The Abrams. photo by Robin Burridge
A large crowd came out for this year’s Blue Grass in the Country, especially Saturday evening for Marie Bottrell and headliners The Abrams.
photo by Robin Burridge
Janet Anning, MSO coordinator, joined by MSO athletes, speaks of the group’s many achievements this year. photo by Robin Burridge
Janet Anning, MSO coordinator, joined by MSO athletes, speaks of the group’s many achievements this year.
photo by Robin Burridge