Island man organized bluegrass festival after one-year hiatus

Jeff Hemmat has taken over the reins of the Bainbridge Island Bluegrass Festival for 2012.

Local artist Jason Pope designed the art work for the Bluegrass Festival

The Bainbridge Island Bluegrass Festival is a relatively young event. Since 2006 it has been entertaining islanders, and others who make the journey to Battle Point Park, with music, entertainment and more.

That’s why 2011 was so unfortunate.

“Two years ago my wife participated as a vendor,” said Jeff Hemmat. “We had a really good time and were looking forward to it last year but it didn’t happen.”

The previous organizers of the festival had difficulty obtaining sponsors and volunteers to make the event happen, so there was no bluegrass festival on the island last year.

It was disappointing to Hemmat and others who enjoyed the festival, so he decided to do something about it.

Hemmat has taken over the reins of the Bainbridge Island Bluegrass Festival for 2012.

It hasn’t been easy, and in fact, it had difficulty coming to fruition this year, too.

“It almost didn’t happen this year,” Hemmat said, whose full-time gig is a payroll analyst for Starbucks. “But fortunately, Bremerton Bottling Company came through right when I was ready to throw in the towel.”

With the bottling company as their main sponsor, Hemmat was able to get the rest of the festival up and running.

Now the festival is fully stocked with vendors, rides, entertainment, food, raffles and prizes, and of course, music.

Hemmat changed the festival up a bit from years past. The line-up is smaller, but with longer sets.

Hemmat also wanted to be able to draw a big act to anchor the festival. The Clumsy Lovers have signed on to do just that.

Also performing are Abby Mae and the Homeschool Boys, The Oly Mountain Boys, and Side Saddle.

Hemmat also arranged the entertainment in addition to the music.

“Because we have longer sets, but less bands, we have longer times for band changes,” Hemmat said.

The entertainment will offer a range of spectacles from martial arts demonstrations, boxing matches, jugglers and more to wow audiences in between bands.

Street-performing buskers will also roam the grounds to entertain crowds.

Vendors selling everything from artwork to hair accessories will be on site. Food from island providers such as Emmy’s Vege House and Symbiosis Farm will be just a couple out of many vendors bringing good things to eat.

Hemmat also added another change from previous years, one that has been his own special project — a beer garden.

“We have stuff for adults as well,” Hemmat said.

The garden will be stocked with beer from Hales Ales, Silver City Brewery and the island’s hometown brew, the Bainbridge Island Brewing Company.

The island’s Fletcher Bay Winery will also be pouring selections of their craft, as well.

“It’s going to be fenced-in, a white picket fence, with a view of the bands,” Hemmat said. “So you can have your beer and see the band — we are not going to hide it away.”

While organizing entertainers, musicians, vendors, breweries and more has placed quite a weight on Hemmat’s shoulders, he says the burden has been worth it.

“We’re bringing bluegrass back to Bainbridge,” he said. “Bringing it back in a big way. It’s not just about music, it’s about the event and the community.”

Shuttle service has been organized to the festival from the ferry terminal.

Even after all his hard work, Hemmat plans to donate the proceeds from the festival to the West Sound Wildlife Shelter and the Bainbridge Island Special Needs Foundation.

“It’s another reason for us all to get together and have a fun party,” he added.

Tickets can be purchased at the Town & Country Market as well as on the festival’s website at www.bainbridgebluegrass.com.

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