PROVIDENCE BAY— With more than 350 attendees and an outstanding lineup of talent, this year’s Bluegrass in the Country is growing into a force to be reckoned with on the bluegrass circuit—and the fundraiser has raised more money than ever for the Manitoulin Special Olympics teams and crowd estimates topped out at as many as 600 taking in the music.
Before the first act had even taken to the stage, the distinctive picking of banjo, guitar, mandolin and bass could be heard overlaying fiddles as a number of bands were practicing behind their travel trailers.
Friday started out with Jan Purcell and Pine Road, with Roger Daybutch and his Mason Dixon Line following up by roaring onto the stage as a great opener for headliners the Canucky Bluegrass Boys. Saturday’s lineup began with Georgian Blue, followed by the pride of the Ottawa Valley, Country Road 44, before local favourites Down Yonder came on board.
Millbank’s Mennonite Rescue Junction, Wikwemikong’s Robbie Shawana and Winterline all kept the crowd hoping, with Jan Purcell and Pine Road really heating things up before the return of the Canucky Bluegrass Boys.
But the action didn’t really stop there.
“We moved it into the arena and turned the lights on around 10 pm,” said Bluegrass in the Country organizer Brother John Featherstone. “They were going in there until the wee hours of the morning with the jam session.”
The event sold out of special ponchos custom made by Kathy Roque Antonio of My Ol’ Blues in Gore Bay, twice. “We called her up and said that ‘if you want to make a few more we would take them’,” said Mr. Featherstone. “She must have been up all night making them and we sold out of those too.”
With the success of Bluegrass in the Country Mr. Featherstone has a brand new challenge. “There are too many groups wanting to play,” he laughed. “It sure is a change from when we first started.”
Although there were a few sprinkles of rain on Sunday, the rain held off until the end of the show. “It came down quite a bit after noon, but we were pretty much done by then,” said Mr. Featherstone.
The gospel performances on Sunday held a bit of a surprise. “There were calls for two encores,” said Mr. Featherstone. “That just doesn’t happen, but the folks at Rescue Junction said that as Mennonites they were used to tackling traditions head on.”
The vendors were also very pleased with this year’s event, a very important consideration for festivals, noted the organizer. “We really have to give a big thanks to all of our volunteers and sponsors,” he said. “They really make this happen.”
Ticket sales for next year’s Bluegrass in the Country are going well and all proceeds, as usual, go to support the Manitoulin Special Olympics.