Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fossilized: back for more bluegrass

Posted By on Sun, Jul 4, 2010 at 3:40 PM

What a difference a year makes. Last year temperatures hovered around 100 during the day and were in the 80s at night during the Wheeler County Bluegrass Festival in Fossil.

This year, Friday was cold and cloudy with temps barely getting into the high 50s. That evening the mercury edged into the high 30s. How the musicians performed so ably in the windy temps during the evening part of the Friday night program, is to their everlasting credit.

As it has in the past, the Wheeler County Bluegrass Festival proved to be a special even if you're not a bluegrass fan. If you are, it's a must visit.

This year's schedule had been altered somewhat to accommodate an influx of vintage cars on Saturday. That meant that the annual Fourth of July parade took place on Friday. And what a short, sweet and heartfelt parade it is.

If you took all the groups that make up the parade and bunched them together, they would stretch two blocks in length.

Leading off was this year's parade on horseback was Wheeler County queen along with one of her court members. Then came a kazoo band, a few vintage cars, a car-drawn wagon packed with armed services veterans, and two people trying as hard as possible to look like dinosaurs in honor of Fossil's most famous product-fossilize bones.

Shortly after the parade ended, the music began down on the Courthouse grounds. True to form, Festival organizer Jay Bowerman kept to a tight schedule bringing bands on one-by-one from the late afternoon until 9 p.m. with a melodrama performance to offer a break in the music.

There was plenty of Bend music talent on stage from Quincy Street with locals Eric and Marlene Alexander, Bowerman, and Loren Irving and the band Back From The Dead with Ted Schoenborn, John Head, and Dave Ledder.

Stealing the show were Oregon's popular all-female band, Misty River, as consistent as ever in their playing, and the tart-tongued, tight playing Great Northern Planes. For those keeping score, Great Northern Planes mixed up traditional bluegrass with acappela gospel and two, count 'em, two Merle Haggard tunes.

Aside from the acts on stage, a lot of Festival attendees come to be part of the Saturday morning workshops. At the workshops, players in specific instrument groups (including vocals), learn the same song and then come together to perform it on stage. It's a truly rewarding experience.

However, the most rewarding part of the weekend might be the crowd. In one of the songs he's written, Bowerman bemoans the loss of rural life in America. Yet in Fossil, it's still alive and with it many wonderful people you get the chance to meet and talk with while the music plays on.

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