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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What an Awesome Festival

Everyone always says “you HAVE to go to Kendallville”…and they’re RIGHT!  The Northern IndianaBluegrass Association puts on one heck of a festival—and they do it twice a year (Memorial and Labor Day weekends)!

Home Sweet Home
I don’t know where to start.  First…it’s only a pleasant 2-3 hour drive from SEMI to Kendallville.  Truly, this festival is a jewel practically in our own back yard.  From the moment I pulled up the NIBA volunteers went out of their way to help me.  Even though the festival is a steal at only $25 (with free camping!), they will give you another $2 discount if you belong to ANY other bluegrass association.  There was ample space to park (although, the premier—read “shady”—spots go quickly) and even electric and water hookup for your camper.  By Friday night, most of the hookup sites were gone, but campers kept flocking in, setting up on just about every inch of grass!

A Killer Old Tyme Jam at Kendallville
The amenities are pretty good.  Plenty of indoor and portable restroom facilities, a “midway” with all kinds of food, snacks and treats and an army of NIBA volunteers drives around in golf carts offering taxi service for free (which was a blessing in the oppressive midday heat).  The stage was located centrally, with both open, and covered seating areas (small bleachers, but most “bring their own” chairs).  The sound system was small, but impressive.  Plenty loud to hear the bands while they played, it didn’t blast all over the campground.   A great lineup of local and regional acts provided plenty of opportunity to hear great bluegrass.  I particularly liked the Hillbenders' take on modern grass, but was blown away by Michigan’s own Detour Bluegrass who flat out rocked their set and stole the whole show.  I saw lots of kids and young families and found the festival very dog friendly as well. 

My Aspiring Picker
Then there’s the picking.  From sunup to sundown, there is an unbelievable amount of picking going on.  Some of the best picking in the campground was found at what seemed like (and might have been) hundreds of small jams at campsites throughout the festival.  From old tyme, to traditional bluegrass, to newgrass, Cajun and gospel grass, it was all there.  Pickers of all abilities were welcomed with open arms and the jam goes on until almost dawn. 

Other commitments will keep me from attending the Labor day festival, but I will NEVER miss going to Kendallville again…it is a GREAT festival! (and you should go to).

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