11th annual Little Roy and Lizzy Bluegrass Festival report

The old Lewis Family Bus at the 2024 Little Roy and Lizzy Festival – photo © Sandy Hatley

The first weekend in May ushered in the 11th annual Little Roy and Lizzy Bluegrass Festival in their hometown of Lincolnton, GA. The three-day festival is now held on the site where Little Roy Lewis and his musical siblings were all raised. Their home place was open so that attendees could wander through the old home and see photos, memorabilia, and original furnishings from the iconic Lewis Family, regaled as the “First Family of Bluegrass Gospel Music.” A replica of their old touring bus sits parked in the backyard. 

Little Roy and Lizzy collaborate with Danny and Christa Stewart to provide a full weekend of great music, fun times, and new experiences for the large crowd that gathered. Many attendees were introduced to the summertime chorus of cicadas that had settled in the trees nearby. Held under a big circus-type tent, the show ran smoothly with clear sound by Jackson Bethune, great entertainment by the host band and numerous others, and smooth MC work by Sherry Boyd. The weather was beautiful for the first two days, but strong storms shut the show down early on Saturday before the Malpass Brothers could entertain.

Walker Norman, a Lincolnton business man who was in attendance, shared, “We had over seven inches on Saturday. (It) flooded and so much water came under the tent, and (with) all electricity for lights and sound system, it became unsafe.”

The heavy late day rains failed to dampen spirits. The promoters’ hard work paid off. On Saturday morning, rain delayed the start of the festival, but soon the sun came out and the show began.

Echo Valley took the stage first. “It’s stopped raining. We’re playing bluegrass. It’s going to be a great day,” hailed their guitarist, Lizzy Anderson.

Once the seven-sibling family band from Pennsylvania finished their first set, the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band, featuring Leroy Troy, followed. Hunter Berry, overall-clad so he fit right in, joined the band on fiddle.

Troy clawhammered the banjo, picked the guitar, blew on a jug, and raked the washboard which guitarist Mike Armistead referred to as “an agitator.” He also teased Troy during his jug song, “Your jug’s out of tune. You haven’t taken enough out yet!”

Boyd referenced Marty Stuart, calling Leroy Troy “a national treasure.”

Next, host band Little Roy and Lizzy, brought more music, energy, and comedy to the stage. Every year, they prank someone. On Friday night, the pair “flew” in to Rhonda Vincent’s set decked out as members of New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

There were serious moments, too. 82-year-old Little Roy acknowledged how grateful that his brothers, Talmage (age 87), and Esley (age 94), came Friday night. He also mentioned his sister, Janis (age 85), was at home. As is the tradition in bluegrass music, it was a time of reunion with old familiar friends. Little Roy recognized special front row guests, Norman and Judy Adams, now retired, but longtime promoters of numerous festivals across the southeast.

Reflecting on the event, those in charge were pleased.

Danny Stewart told us…

“The festival was another success this year. All the bands there performed with excellence. My wife and I run 6-7 festivals per year on our own. We partnered with Lizzy Long on this festival and, let me tell you, she is an amazing partner, friend, and great promoter, such a hard worker.

Lizzy works her butt off before the festival with sponsors and set up, during the festival playing on stage and making sure all the fans get a great experience, and after the festival on the tractor pulling campers and cars out of the mud. We had one of the hardest rains hit us Saturday night that I ever experienced during my 17 years of promoting shows.

Christa and I are honored to be involved with the Little Roy and Lizzy Festival for the fourth year – three at the Lewis Family Homestead and one in downtown Lincolnton, GA at the Lewis Family Pavilion in 2021,  just after COVID. The people from this area are so friendly and welcoming. The sound is always amazing because we use Jackson Bethune Sound. He is the best for bluegrass and country. That is why I hire him for both of my Withlacoochee bluegrass festivals in Florida.”

Lizzy concluded, “The festival was absolutely wonderful, even though we had a downpour of rain the last evening. Everybody, including the bands, volunteers, and fans, had fun working together and getting through a rough patch. Overall, the festival was a success!”

And we can’t wait for next year!

Share this:

About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.