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Bluegrass finds home at Kendallville festival

Festival welcomes acts for four days of music

Joshua Schipper

Whatzup Features Writer

Published May 18, 2022

Nearly 30 hours of live music, a weekend of camping, and music workshops await attendees of the Tri-State Bluegrass Festival from Thursday, May 26, to Sunday, May 29. 

For this weekend at the Noble County Fairgrounds in Kendallville dedicated to bluegrass, Hogslop String Band is one of bands of particular interest. The quintet is schedule to close out the days of music on Saturday and Sunday.

“They’re kind of a crossover band,” said Joe Steiner, president of the Northern Indiana Bluegrass Association. “They’re progressive, old-timey music. They have a very broad appeal. I think they kind of represent where the music is today, as opposed to what is was in the 1970s, when the (bluegrass music) club started. It’s more of an ‘anything goes’ type thing.”

Getting in on act

People who go to the festival can also participate in a number of workshops. 

“People who are interested in bluegrass music, a lot of times, are bluegrass musicians themselves to some extent,” Steiner said. “Not as much as the people on stage, of course, but we also have workshops for people who are learning their instruments.”

Steiner says people attending for the first time might not be used to jamming, but festival veterans often wander the campground to see who’s jamming and stop to listen for a while.

“Most people that are new to the bluegrass festival would be surprised by the amount of jamming around the parking lot” he said. “Moreso than other music festivals.”

As for those that will be performing on stage, Steiner said the Dry Branch Fire Squad would be particularly enticing to see perform. 

“Ron Thomason is the leader of that group, and he has had it together for many years,” Steiner said. “He, I think, is semi-retired now. So that’s an act you don’t see a lot at the festival, but back in the day was very popular.”

music community

The Tri-State Bluegrass Festival also offers camping options for the weekend’s events.

“A lot of the folks that come to the festival also camp there,” Steiner said. “They want to be around for the whole weekend, and they want to participate in the jam sessions, wander around the campground all weekend and check to see who’s there and who’s jammin’. A lot of them play music all night long.”

Steiner says that while a lot of people bring their own food, there will be vendors available on site. 

The festival is family friendly, and children’s activities will be available. There will also be golf carts for those with low mobility.

Steiner says the festival started on a small scale, with only a few bluegrass friends. 

“And it moved around during the first few years, and wasn’t real consistent during the first few years,” he said. “Since we’ve been in Kendallville, it’s been very consistent. So what started out as a few bluegrass friends that had the foresight to organize as a club really grew into the organization that we have today.”

becoming hooked

Steiner has a long-running affinity for bluegrass, remembering he encountered the music while watching television in high school. He said that once someone gets hooked, they are drawn deeper into it.

“And I became hooked instantly once I saw and heard bluegrass music,” he said. “And I think a lot of bluegrassers probably would have that same story, that once they heard it, they just kind of got hooked on it. 

“And a lot of bluegrassers, I think, are kind of obsessed with the genre,” he added. “That once they get hooked on it, they just want to find out more.”

For those unsure about bluegrass and feel as though they wouldn’t want to purchase a ticket or commit to a weekend pass, they can attend Thursday evening for free. 

The next Tri-State Bluegrass Festival will be over Labor Day weekend, Sept. 1-4. 

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