Bluegrass in the Country festival looking at biggest season ever

PROVIDENCE BAY—It has been quite a run for Bluegrass in the Country, starting out on a wing and a prayer by (Brother) John Featherstone and a handful of hardy volunteers in 2010 to grow through hard work and dedication into one of the most successful bluegrass venues in the country that it is today.

“It has really been wonderful to see it grow the way it has,” said Mr. Featherstone. “We always hoped and dreamed that it would, but this has truly been a dream come true.”

When Bluegrass in the Country began, Bluegrass in Canada and Ontario wasn’t that well known a genre. “Bluegrass was really more of an American phenomenon,” he noted. “But now we have people getting in touch with us to take part.”

The original show was a one-day event and held in the Providence Bay arena. “It was a one-day show held in the Providence Bay arena and that year we had maybe eight trailers and a few hundred people in attendance,” recalled Mr. Featherstone. “Today Bluegrass in the Country is considered to be one of the very best events on the bluegrass circuit in Ontario. Fans and performers come from all parts of the province.”

Bluegrass in the Country is the main fundraiser for the Manitoulin Special Olympics program and it was the Special Olympics that first got Mr. Featherstone, who has a Special Olympian in his own family, involved. “Don’t ask me to don a track suit and a whistle and go out on the field,” laughed Mr. Featherstone, “but organizing this is something that I can do.”

Manitoulin Special Olympics has over 50 participants and their achievements are outstanding, noted Mr. Featherstone. “These athletes have earned two gold medals in world competition and several gold medals at the national and provincial levels. We are very proud of their achievements.”

“Our show has become a community embraced event,” continued Mr. Featherstone. “The Providence Bay Fair Board is a huge blessing to us. There are more than 100 local businesses who sponsor our show and without their commitment the show would not be possible.”

Mr. Featherstone added that the event also receives support from the Municipality of Central Manitoulin. “Our committee of volunteers works together very hard throughout the year to make this weekend extra special,” he said. “From the fantastic performers who always enjoy coming and who give us their special rates for Special Olympics, we say thank you. To the Red Hat Ladies who have taken over decorating our venue we say ‘wow way to go.’ To 100.7, our local radio station, we say thank you for giving us a huge leg up promoting this event.”

The real supporters, however, are the many folks who buy tickets for the event. “They really make this happen,” he said.

Each year many of the Special Olympians can be found helping out at the event or just taking in the show—and well they would! This year’s event will feature headliners like the Canucky Bluegrass Boys, Jan Purcell and Pine Road, Winterline and Rescue Junction, local favourites like Robbie Shawana, Country Road 44, the Mason Dixon Line, and Down Yonder, and many more entertainers are lining up all the time.

Platinum sponsors for Bluegrass in the Country include CTV, the Providence Bay Credit Union, The Manitoulin Expositor, 100.7 The Island and the Providence Bay Fair Board, but the gold and silver sponsors’ list incudes just about every business, big and small, across Manitoulin Island and beyond.

“We have had incredible support from local businesses,” said Mr. Featherstone. “It is really humbling to see the way people have gotten behind this event.”

Camping opens at the Providence Bay Fairgrounds in Providence Bay (near the world famous and outstanding sand beach) Thursday, June 11 at noon, with the show opening Friday at 6:30 pm until 9:30 pm, Saturday, June 13 from 1 pm to 10 pm and Sunday, June 14 from 10 am to 12 pm. Ticket information can be obtained by calling 705-282-8158 or 705-282-0368.