Arts and Entertainment

A hoedown at Battle Point Park: Bainbridge Bluegrass Festival jigs into another July

Eli, 10, of the Smalltime String Band, performs at the July 4th Bluegrass Booth on Bainbridge, with his brother Oliver, 14. The brothers will appear at the Bluegrass Festival. - Photo courtesy of Bainbridge Bluegrass
Eli, 10, of the Smalltime String Band, performs at the July 4th Bluegrass Booth on Bainbridge, with his brother Oliver, 14. The brothers will appear at the Bluegrass Festival.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Bainbridge Bluegrass

It’s not summer on the island without the Bainbridge Bluegrass Festival.

The festival will be back at Battle Point Park Saturday, July 27 for a full day of music on the lawn.

“One thing that has really excited me is that it draws people from off-island,” said Ann Warman, the organizer for the festival. “It spreads goodwill all over the county, because it’s drawing so much from the sister cites.”

The event brings in musicians, food vendors, arts-and-crafts folks and nonprofit organizations from across the greater Seattle area.

John Baker, the stage manager for the event, has worked with the festival since 2008. He has seen many performances this past year and has compiled a list of strong and diverse bluegrass musicians.

The 2013 line-up will feature the Smalltime String Band, Joy Mills & Band, Barleywine Revue, Convergence Zone Bluegrass Band, Renegade Stringband, Ricky Gene Powell & The Boys of Greenwood Glenn, and Wayne Taylor & Friends. Baker’s selection ranges from oldtime to progressive to country-flavored bluegrass.

“We try to spread it out a bit to give everyone something they’ll like,” Baker said.

The star of the festival will be Wayne Taylor who, for 21 years, performed as lead vocalist, guitarist and emcee for the U.S. Navy Band, Country Current. The Country Current is the Navy’s premier country-bluegrass ensemble.

Taylor has performed for four U.S. presidents and has accompanied many bluegrass legends, including Bill Monroe, “The Father of Bluegrass.” Taylor will bring together an ensemble of equally talented musicians for the festival performance.

“He has a lot of experience in bluegrass that goes way back,” Baker said.

The remaining performances featured at this year’s bluegrass festival will invite the whole spectrum of bluegrass aesthetic.

The Smalltime String Band is the Abrahamson family. Brothers Oliver, 14, on the fiddle and Eli, 10, on the banjo are the band’s centerpiece members. The two perform facing each other and signal musical changes with a nod or gesture. Their mom, Terrie Abrahamson, on guitar, and good friend, Tony Mates, on bass, complete the ensemble.

The Renegade Stringband, who some may recognize from their performances at the 2013 Folklife Festival, combines folk and blues into modern sound in a way that almost crosses the bridge into folksy rock ‘n’ roll. Still, the band continues the bluegrass tradition of contemporary innovation, and offers an impressive performance of harmonizing strings and vocals.

It will be difficult not to dance along.

Last year the event saw a record high of 2,500 people, a number of those couldn’t help but take a spot in front of the stage to jig their feet. This year organizers are hoping for even more visitors.

“It’s a family event,” Warman said. “ParentMap named the festival one of eight unique things your family will love to do this summer.”

ParentMap readers also chose Battle Point Park as this year’s best local park.

The event will take place for its seventh consecutive year at the natural amphitheater nestled against the park.

It offers ample room for attendees to bring blankets, picnics and folding chairs to sprawl out on the lawn. At the top of the amphitheater, attendees can stroll along the outer perimeter to enjoy the food, beer garden and arts-and-crafts.

This time around, the grass will also be greener and the stage more prominent, as an irrigation system and cement platform were recently installed in time for the event.

It goes hand-in-hand that the festival encourages a full-family attendance. While the regular individual ticket price for persons over 19 years is $15, children under 14 get in for free. Two parents with children ages under 14, receive a discounted entry for $25 total. For individual teens, ages 14 through 19, tickets are $10. Teen couples, ages 14 through 19, pay $15.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.bainbridgebluegrass.org/tickets.

Ticket prices will increase by $5 on the day of the event, at the door.

Islanders and visitors can opt to catch a ride with one of the free shuttles running all day to and from the event. The shuttle will pick up at the ferry terminal’s walk-on entrance.

The event will be open from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and the music will begin at noon Saturday, July 27.

The festival is a nonprofit, led and organized by volunteers. Each year the event selects another family oriented nonprofit and charity to benefit. This year proceeds from the festival will go to PAWs of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap.

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