Summer is the season for live outdoor concerts, and a staple of my summers for the last 22 years has been the Madrid Bluegrass Festival. The weather was nearly perfect this year, and so was the music. This is Dave Nichols & Spare Change on the mainstage.
This is Lake Effect, a band from central NY, and new to the festival this year. You may have heard them on String Fever during the month of May… They had the toughest time slot of the festival: 9 a.m. on Saturday morning! Campers, pickers and dancers celebrated late into the night on Friday night, so they are s-l-o-w to straggle to the mainstage area. The band rose to the occasion, and got us off to a lively start.
Meet Amy Gallatin and her band, Stillwaters. They hail from CT, and wowed us with great vocals and instrumentals. Roger Williams, on resophonic guitar (a.k.a. dobro), gave a free workshop in the afternoon.
Madrid has a great audience space: lots of mature trees for all-day shade, plus a constant gentle breeze off the Grasse River.
Meet BearTracks, a trio from the Champlain Valley. Tom Venne (R) plays guitar. His sister Julie (C) plays bass (always in sparkly stiletto boots!), and Kevin Maul (L) plays resophonic guitar. Relaxing under the merch tent.
Meet Shelene Atkinson, minding The Atkinsons merch booth right next door. This provides a nice space for visiting with other musicians, swapping cds, networking, and resting your feet between shows. Most bands play at least 2, .hour-long sets on Saturday. Shelene plays guitar and sings in the band.
Howard Bonner, my co-emcee, occasional String Fever co-host, and long time friend. Howard is host of the bluegrass radio show Catalogue Parlor, airing Tuesdays in Kingston, ON.
…and this is Bill Knowlton, chatting with Billie Lee Cox backstage. Bill hosts WCNY’s Bluegrass Ramble on Sunday nights. Last year the International Bluegrass Music Assoication honored Bill with a Distinguished Achievement Award. You can always spot Bill in a crowd — just look for the crazy pants!
Like most bluegrass festivals, the music is only part of the event. Terry McKendree is a chain saw carver, and brought a whole zoo to the festival!
… more of the McKendree zoo:
The kitchen is staffed all weekend by volunteers: Flipping burgers and frying stuff all day, then cleaning it up every night to prep for breakfast the next morning. The kitchen volunteers are incredibly dedicated!
Festival vendors offer additions to your wardrobe, jewelry collection, home decor, and pantry offerings.
How ’bout a rug?
The Madrid festival provides a fun environment for kids, even without the free ride from Dad. There was a kids’ fishing derby on Saturday afternoon, and the winner caught a 14-ounce bullhead, taking home a swell trophy!
That’s Billie Lee Cox, from the band Remington Ryde. He’s teaching a banjo workshop Saturday afternoon. There were three workshops at this festival, offering fantastic opportunities for amateur players to get hands-on instruction from the masters.
David Nichols (leader of Spare Change) also taught a mandolin workshop, but here he’s raffling off a guitar that he donated to the festival. A very happy winner took posession of the instrument on Saturday night!
A festival doesn’t get to be 22 without experiencing some loss. At 8 pm Saturday night, we remembered our loved ones who can’t be with us this year, and we light candles to represent the happy memories that light our lives in their absence. This memorial was constructed to honor festival founder Donald “Bud” Rupert and park founding father Calvin Peacock.
Meet the Wilsons, making happy memories backstage. I hope you’ll hear Merv on an upcoming String Fever. He’s a terrific musician!
The dress code is…. casual:
Don’t wait for a special occasion to attend your first outdoor music festival. Live music is a luxury, and you can get heaping helpings of it at summer festivals. Hurry up and make some plans! I hope our paths cross down the road soon. ‘Til then… see you on the radio.