Bluegrass in the Country this weekend in Prov

PROVIDENCE BAY–Looking for a toe tappin’ good time this weekend that’s fun or the entire family? Look no further than the Providence Bay fairgrounds and the annual Bluegrass in the Country event, the premier fundraiser for Manitoulin Special Olympics.

“The bluegrass fan base is building across the Island each year,” ‘Brother’ John Featherstone, the event organizer, said proudly.

Georgian Blue, which hails from the North Bay area, will open the show this Friday followed by Northern Opry hall of famer Glen McDougall of Providence Bay and the Manitoulin Connection–a group of talented Islanders–with the evening ending with the sweet sounds of Honeygrass.

Saturday, June 8 will see the return of crowd favourite Tyler Marshall, teenage wonder, and Brandon Ladd. The Allen Family Reunion is up next, with fiddle player John Allen of Prairie Oyster fame. The family also has a connection with Mr. Featherstone, as they grew up on the same road in southern Ontario.

“The Allen Family was a well known group growing up,” he explained. “When John Allen left for Prairie Oyster, it died off, but now they’re back.” The group is comprised of John, sister Julie, John’s daughter Bev and Julie’s son Paul. The group is set to perform Prairie Oyster favourites, including the ‘Auctioneer’s Song.’

Manitowaning’s Robbie Shawana will follow the Allen Family Reunion set, with the Canucky Bluegrass Boys the next act.

While the Canucky Bluegrass Boys were once the show closers, they have been moved to take to the stage just before the supper break as fans urged organizers to give these favourites an earlier time, as not everyone has the stamina for a full day of bluegrass music. After dinner, Mike Trudell of Elliot Lake (and who has worked out of Nashville) performs followed by Honeygrass and the Good Brothers.

Sunday will see the Allen Family Reunion back on stage and the Good Brothers will close the show. Sunday, Mr. Featherstone reminds, is free of charge.

While some rough camping is available on site, Mr. Featherstone reminds campers that Providence Bay and area plays host to numerous full amenity campsites.

“This is Manitoulin Special Olympics’ biggest, and only, fundraiser,” the organizer explained, praising the sponsors for their help in seeing this event to fruition each year.

Mr. Featherstone noted the direct correlation between having three world class athletes in his son Austin Featherstone, Kelsey Mellan and Regan Millsap and having money to help these athletes train, and 2013 will see 12 Manitoulin Special Olympians qualify to compete in the provincials–the biggest number yet.

“Success is due to the tremendous drive and will to train that our athletes have,” he said. “These athletes also have the resources necessary to train for world competition. These resources come in a large part from Bluegrass in the Country, which is the main fundraiser for the Manitoulin Special Olympics program. Those of you in Bluegrass who have contributed to the success of our show either as performers or sponsors or ticket buyers can be very proud. We humbly thank you very much.”

New this year, gold sponsors will receive tickets to Bluegrass in the Country.

Advanced tickets are $35 for the weekend for adults, $20 for youths aged 10-16 and free for children under 10 when accompanied by an adult and can be purchased at The Source in Gore Bay, Season’s Restaurant in M’Chigeeng, D.A. Williamson and Sons in Mindemoya, Manitowaning Mill Home Hardware in Manitowaning and 100.7 FM The Island in Little Current.

Alicia McCutcheon