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Wet grass doesn't affect Bluegrass festival
Despite soggy conditions down at the West Wetlands Park, bluegrass lovers turned out in droves to appreciate some live music Saturday during the 5th annual Bluegrass in the Park festival.
The large crowd completely covered the rolling grassy hills near the pond of the park to listen to bluegrass bands Sawmill Road, Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road, The Bluegrass Brothers and Headline Bluegrass Band.
"I love this, I’ve been out here all five years and this is by far one of the best shows," said Yuman Val Schiele. "The sun has come out to get rid of the water for us, and the entertainment is great. It's beautiful now. Bluegrass is some good down home music and is just a friendly type of music."
Event organizer Larry Baker was worried about the weather after the rainstorms this week.
"Thursday I was sweatin’ bullets and I got a lot of gray hair and no sleep," he said. "Obviously the whole county was really worried about it. It came down to the last ten minutes before I made the decision (to proceed with the festival). The bands were facing the situation of whether to get on their airlines or not. It was quite a day Thursday."
Even though the wet conditions at the park prevented overnight camping, Baker said it wasn't a huge problem.
"People understand and we were able to secure the Joe Henry Park parking lot, so it worked out. The camping situation next year, if it isn’t raining, we’ll be back on the grass and we’ll have more people I’m sure."
Baker said there was a smaller crowd at this year's festival.
"There are less people here than last year because the weather scared them. It's going to be tight this year for various reasons, but weather is the main thing, and if you take a look around you can see the people who love bluegrass are here."
Baker said hosting the event on the same weekend as the Lettuce Days also cuts down on how many people attend his show.
"The last two years its been on the same weekend, and frankly it has been a little tough on us because when I first came to Yuma, I looked at all the events and lettuce days was the week before. A couple of years ago, it got changed to the same weekend we are doing it and it has hurt my attendance. Next year I'm looking at moving it a week after lettuce days if the park is available, that way everybody can get a little bit of everything."
Victor Dowdy, bassist for the Bluegrass Brothers said he enjoys coming the Yuma festival
"This is an awesome crowd right here man. I was sitting here counting and just trying to figure out how many people were here, but I lost count," he said.
Dowdy said bluegrass is a huge part of his life.
"I love bluegrass man. I was raised up on it, and that's all my mom and dad ever listened to. They turned it on to us when we was kids. Back years ago in Virginia, there weren't a whole lot of jobs, but my dad managed to scrape together enough money to buy us some old instruments and we started playing on the porch."
Baker said his band got a big boost in 2001.
"Mark Warner was running for the Virginia governorship and we helped him out on his campaign. That was about the time "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" came out, and we were doing the same thing they were doing in the movie. It turned out great. They loved us after that."
KTTI 95.1 FM personality Jay Walker was greatly impressed with the turnout Saturday.
"With all the rain and closures here in Yuma, the thought of (so many) people showing up... when they thought the place was going to be under water... is great. We need to keep these guys coming back every year. I’m not joking here, I love this.
Whoever you are, if you came down and sat in this audience and saw these musicians doing what they do you will think, wow, those guys are good."
Baker said he plans to bring the festival back again next year.
"It's an outdoor event and it's a lot of fun. If the local people get a niche of it and an understanding of what we do, it will transcend into bigger things. It's not the old thing where everybody is in overalls with no teeth and are hillbillies. It's good, soulful, heartfelt music from a lot of great people."
Chris McDaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6849.