Bluegrass in the Country gears up for 10th anniversary event

Bluegrass in the Country is a fundraisier for Manitoulin Special Olympics. This group practiced their square dancing moves for weeks for the showcase at the festival. It was well worth it, judging by the smiles on their faces. -photos by Lori Thompson

PROVIDENCE BAY—The ever-popular Bluegrass in the Country event is even more special this year because of the date on the calendar.

“Our Bluegrass in the Country event is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year,” said John Featherstone, main organizer of the annual event, which takes place June 7-9 in Providence Bay. “By 10 years a lot of bluegrass festivals have moved on. Our bluegrass festival has been around this long because of the tremendous support of the Island community and our many sponsors.”
 “So with this being our 10th anniversary and a special milestone for us, we decided we needed to step on the gas a little and put on an extra special show,” stated Mr. Featherstone. He pointed out the local event, “is known on the bluegrass circuit as being one of the best in Ontario.” 

Fans and performers come from all parts of the province and United States. 

“This year’s headliner band is The Next Generation Leahy,” explained Mr. Featherstone. “They were here two years ago and were such a big hit that I said right there, ‘would you be willing to come back to help us celebrate our 10th anniversary?’ and they said of ‘sure’.”

“Hard Ryde is the most awarded Canada bluegrass band by far,” said Mr. Featherstone. “We’ve had them here before.”

The band Alicia Robicheau and Lonesome Sound was named as the most promising bluegrass band of the year in 2017 and then we have The Canucky Bluegrass Boys, who have been here from the start of our event. They are from Sudbury and have won several awards over the years,” said Mr. Featherstone.

The band County Road 44, “is from the Ottawa area, and have been here previously as well,” continued Mr. Featherstone, noting, “Heather Ready’s grandfather is from Meldrum Bay and encourages all her friends from Western Manitoulin to come and see here.”

The band Different Picks from North Bay is being feature this year as well, as is General Store, which retired four years ago. “One of their singers is the young age of 80, and this band has won the most gospel music awards of anybody. They have now come out of retirement and are going to helping us celebrate our 10th anniversary at the show Saturday night.”

Kelly McGillivray and Leah are from Sault Ste. Marie. “Leah, who is a Special Olympics athlete, is a really good singer and they will be on just before the Manitoulin Special Olympics Square Dances on late Saturday afternoon of the show. Fred Hunter is still the caller and working with the MSO participants,” said Mr. Featherstone.

Ben Lentir and Jim Beech, who started with the first Bluegrass in the Country show and are long-time supporters, will also be performing at the festival this year as well Robbie Shawana. 

While all the spots for hydro camping on the Providence Bay Agricultural Fair Grounds are booked for the bluegrass festival weekend there are non-hydro camping spots still available, said Mr. Featherstone. 

Bluegrass in the Country is the main fundraiser for the Manitoulin Special Olympics program each year. And as an indication of how popular the local bluegrass event has become, “we have up to 24 bands lined up that want to come here.”
And while the actual music festival doesn’t start until the Friday, “We do a cruise with North Channel Cruise Lines on the Thursday in Little Current. They pay for a bus that leaves the campground in Providence Bay late Thursday afternoon to Little Current, and the cruise includes a gourmet meal, and this year we will have the band Newfie Blue providing bluegrass music newfie style on hand to provide the musical entertainment.”

For details on the Bluegrass in the Country, go online to