The Grass is Always Blue-er

back by popular demand, bluegrass festival rolls on

Luke Hoppe, photos by Frank H. Robinson

STRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER. The Seeger family takes the stage in Lake Altoona County Park at a WHYS Bluegrass Festival of yore.
STRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER. The Seeger family takes the stage in Lake Altoona County Park at a WHYS Bluegrass Festival of yore.

As many of you know already Eau Claire has part of the budding music scene here in Wisconsin since … well since The Joynt was a famous jazz club, if you really want to get technical, but only recently has reemerged as a blossoming area full of people and bands such as Justin Vernon, Adelyn Rose, and Softly, Dear.

Unfortunately there is no way to list them all, so instead of doing that coordinated group efforts spurred ideas such as the Sounds Like Summer Concert Series and Tuesday Night Blues to offer more people a way to hear some of these great sounds.

WHYS radio (96.3FM) here in Eau Claire puts on its own “little” shindig at the end of the summer every year called the WHYS Bluegrass Festival. Oh what’s that you say? There wasn’t one last year?

Once the community got word of this debacle there was a large backlash. Citizens openly would come up to some of the coordinators and WHYS board members expressing their dismay. Clearly, people were greatly disappointed that there was not a Bluegrass Festival last summer, but now it’s back, literally, by popular demand from noon to 9pm Saturday, Aug. 23, at Lake Altoona County Park.

Despite being sidetracked last year, the festival is in full swing and is on pace be better than ever. They are having two stages (a main stage and a side stage) to ensure that all nine hours are action-packed and filled to the teeth with live music.

And for those of you who may think it will be too unpleasantly hot out there, fear not, because the park area is nicely shaded. To beat the heat even more there are refreshments available for purchase. In the past, the coordinators have enlisted the help of local craft breweries and this year is no different: American Sky Brewery has graciously offered to be the supplier for this year’s event, featuring a variety of several different types of beer.

While you may come for the beer, you will be enticed by the music to stay. The day opens with more traditional bluegrass and as it continues the styles will move on to the less traditional, more contemporary bluegrass. Bands such as The Seeger Boys, Lowest Pair, and Kind Country are playing on the main stage while the Ukulele Club of Eau Claire and Bellinger Bluegrass Band are heading up the side stage. There will even be a fiddle contest that is headed up by Nick Seeger (yes, from the Seeger Boys) to which anyone can enter and the winner receives $50.

The festival is taking place at Lake Altoona County Park. A shuttle service will be provided by Cody Limousines to ensure everyone’s safety. If you’re looking to go green a little more and ride your bike, the park is located right off the Chippewa River Trail, and the Chippewa Valley Transit Alliance is even coordinating a group bike ride out to the festival.

Tickets are available in advanced at several locations (which can be found on the WHYS web page) and from www.whysradio.org/Bluegrass.php. They are $12 for a single and $17 for a family in advance, but they will also be sold at the event itself: $15 for a single and $20 for a family.

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