A Lester Flatt Celebration in Sparta, TN

Alan Bibey & Grasstowne at the 2021 Lester Flatt Celebration – photo © Bill Warren

Sometimes small town celebrations are the best fun.

Sparta, Tennessee is the hometown of the legendary Lester Flatt. Sparta celebrates his legacy on the second Saturday of October with a car show, vendors, bluegrass music, and tops off the evening with fireworks. A number of streets are blocked off and everyone roams freely among the vendors. Blake and Kimberly Williams are two of the driving forces behind the music event. Blake MCs, tells jokes, and provides some history of both the music and Lester himself. Kimberly keeps everything in order behind the scenes.

Mayor Jeff Young welcomed the crowd and tossed commemorative t-shirts to the audience between bands.

Williamson Branch opened the show. They are a family band that are showmen – and women! One person leaned over to me and said, “Those girls have pipes!!” Yes they do. Their show includes a rollicking take off on the old Hee-Haw show with Kevin and Anthony cracking corny jokes like Buck and Roy used to do. They concluded the show singing and dancing in the crowd. Keep an eye out for them if they are in your area.

Alan Bibey & Grasstowne came on next. Alan is a multiple IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year winner, and the first mandolin player for IIIrd Tyme Out. Hard driving traditional bluegrass is the band’s calling card along with some wonderful original music. Two of the Williamson sisters – Melody and Carolyn – joined the cloggers during the Grasstowne show. That put a big smile on the band faces. Keep an eye out for Grasstowne. They give full measure.

High Fidelity was up next. They are a relatively new band headed by husband and wife team, Jeremy Stevens and Corrina Rose Logston. They provide a range of music from old time to traditional bluegrass to four part harmony reminiscent of the Chuck Wagon Gang. There is also some twin banjo thrown in for good measure.  A powered kite flew over during their show, and Jeremy remarked, “Look – a flying go cart!” They are rapidly becoming in demand on the bluegrass circuit.

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out closed the music show. The band is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Blake and Russell discussed his career prior to the band performance, and we learned that the band is going back into its catalog and doing some of its older music during the anniversary tour. These songs bring back a lot of memories. They are also doing some of the standards that are pretty well demanded by the audience. Donnie Carver has been the sound man for the band for well over 20 years. Russell always gives him deserved credit for keeping the sound at its best. We all wish for many more years of music from IIIrd Tyme Out!

Fireworks closed out the celebration.

Put the second Saturday of October on your calendar and join Sparta for next year’s Lester Flatt Celebration.

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