By CHERIL VERNON
Bluegrass bands from across the country will descend upon the Grapeland area this week for the 16th Annual Memorial Day Weekend Bluegrass Music Festival, opening today and continuing through Sunday at Salmon Lake Park.
“We are bringing in great musicians from all around the country. Bluegrass is original music. It can get old and it can get refreshed and this year it’s a refreshing year. We have a lot of younger people playing in the bands and it’s a little bit jazzier music, so we think it will more appealing to returning visitors as well as to the younger crowd,” Colee Littlefield with the Texas Bluegrass Association told the Herald-Press Wednesday.
Ten bluegrass bands from Alabama, Georgia, Arizona, Missouri and Texas are currently on the schedule to perform.
“Bluegrass is acoustic music. These people really have to be at the top of their game to play good music, be good on vocals because there are not big amplifiers or electrified instruments,” Littlefield said. “We have a couple of families coming in that have young children in their bands that people are really going to enjoy.”
One of those bands is The Sowell Family Pickers, who won first place in the gospel division from the Texas Bluegrass Association’s Battle of the Bands event during Free Picking Weekend earlier this month at the park. For their prize, the band won $500 and spots to perform Friday and Saturday during the festival.
“One kid who is 6 1/2 plays the uklele and another who is 8 1/2 plays the fiddle and mandolin,” Littlefield said. “It’s really fun to watch these kids that are so interested. They perform as a family on the road.”
During the 2012 Labor Day Bluesgrass Music Festival at Salmon Lake Park, longtime event organizers Floyd and Fannie Salmon announced that due to their age and health that they would no longer be able to put on the festival. They asked if anyone was interested in continuing the festival to talk to them.
On Sept. 25, 2012, Glen and Angie Beaubouef, with the backing of Colee and David Littlefield, the Texas Bluegrass Association was established to fund and produce the annual bluegrass festivals at the park — which includes not only the Memorial Day weekend event, but the Labor Day Bluegrass Gospel Music Festival, now in its 37th year, and the Free Picking Weekend event. The Salmons still own and operate Salmon Lake Park.
“We are taking over the festival due to their health, but the Salmons are still involved. We are so fortunate they agreed to let us do this. We are so appreciative of them,” Littlefield said. “We also want to thank our volunteers too. We couldn’t do it without them. They help us every day from parking trailers and motorhomes, answering phones, giving out tickets, manning the front gate, cooking food and decorating the stage.”
Littlefield encouraged those who have never been to Salmon Lake Park to come visit this weekend.
“This park has been here for at least 45 years and it’s just unique. Mr. Salmon moved several cabins and old houses and restored them to look like a little town. The park has its own character,” Littlefield said.
The festival will include a wide variety of food vendors selling items ranging from funnel cakes, corn dogs, fish and barbecue. Arts and crafts vendors also will be set up as well as bands that will have booths to sell their CDs and other merchandise.
Here is the schedule for the festival:
• 7 p.m. — East Mountain (Texas)
• 7:45 p.m. — Sabine River Bend Band (Texas)
• 8:30 p.m. — Robertson County Line (Texas)
• 9:15 p.m. — Jerry and Tammy Sullivan (Alabama)
• 1:15 p.m. — The Armstrong Family (Texas)
• 2 p.m. — Sabine River Bend Band (Texas)
• 2:45 p.m. — Southern Raised (Missouri)
• 3:30 p.m. — (to be announced)
• 4:15 p.m. — Jerry and Tammy Sullivan (Alabama)
• 5 p.m. — supper break
• 7 p.m. — The Sowell Family Pickers (Texas)
• 7:45 p.m. — Robertson County Line (Texas)
• 8:30 p.m. — Jerry and Tammy Sullivan (Alabama)
• 9:15 p.m. — Southern Raised (Missouri)
• 10 a.m. to noon — open stage. Bands see stage manager by 9:45 a.m. to draw for positions
• 1:15 p.m. — The Sowell Family Pickers (Texas)
• 2 p.m. — Robertson County Line (Texas)
• 2:45 p.m. — The Marksmen (Georgia)
• 3:30 p.m. — Southern Raised (Missouri)
• 4:15 p.m. — The Bost Family Gospel Traditions (Arizona)
• 5 p.m. — supper break
• 7 p.m. — East Mountain (Texas)
• 7:45 p.m. — Sabine River Band (Texas)
• 8:30 p.m. — Southern Raised (Missouri)
• 9:15 p.m. — The Marksmen (Georgia)
• 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. — Devotional. Scott T. Armstrong will lead the devotional with music by The Armstrong Family
• 1:15 p.m. — East Mountain (Texas)
• 2 p.m. — Bost Family Gospel Traditions (Arizona)
• 2:45 p.m. — The Armstrong Family (Texas)
• 3:30 p.m. — White Dove (Texas)
• 4:15 p.m. — The Marksmen (Georgia)
Four-day tickets are $50. Tickets for Thursday are $15, $20 for Friday, $20 for Saturday and $10 for Sunday. Children age 15 and under are admitted free with their parents.
For more information about the bands or the festival, visit www.texasbluegrassassociation.com, call 832-712-2445 or 936-697-5949. or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Those attending should bring lawn chairs or blankets. Salmon Lake Park offers more than 400 RV sites, 30 and 50 amps available on first-come, first-serve basis. Cabins, picnics, pavilions and group halls are available by reservation by calling 936-687-2594. No alcohol is allowed on the Salmon Lake Park premises.
Follow signs on Business U.S. 287 South through Grapeland to get to the park. The park is located at 357 Salmon Lake Rd. in Grapeland. For more details about the park, visit www.salmonlakepark.com.