Big Lick Bluegrass Festival returns bigger and better

High Fidelity at the 2022 Big Lick Bluegrass Festival – photo by Gary Hatley

After a two year hiatus due to the global pandemic, the Big Lick Bluegrass Festival near Oakboro in south central North Carolina returns this weekend. Promoter Jeff Branch has worked tirelessly to ensure a top notch event. A new stage in a new spot with clear sound featuring a powerhouse lineup of musical talent, plus a variety of food trucks on a beautiful spring Tarheel weekend, all nestled in picturesque countryside, is a winning formula for a great family-friendly bluegrass festival.

Thursday night kicked off with an open mic featuring local talent. There were plenty of youth represented on the stage, ensuring the future of our beloved music. Chelsea (age 10)  and Courtney (age 8) Edenfield, granddaughters of Deeper Shade of Blue’s former banjoist, Jim Fraley, warmed hearts with their tight heartfelt harmony on numerous hymns. Big sister Chelsea accompanied their perfect-pitch voices on ukulele. 

Following their performance, Old River Road took the stage. Two of the band members, Malachi Freeman (age 17) on fiddle, and his sister, Amelia (age 16) on mandolin, are regulars on the IBMA Youth Stage with the Kids on Bluegrass ensemble. They were joined by their proud papa, Justin, on bass, friend Bob Dotson on guitar, and Junior Sisk Band’s Curt Love on banjo. Several other groups including the Quarter House Band, Hickory Nuts, and Last Chance Band (featuring Big T and Pammy Lassiter) performed.

“We decided on the name Last Chance Band because we’ve got six divorces between us, and working on seven and eight,” Big T joked.

The music resumed on Friday with some of the best in bluegrass: Sideline, Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers, High Fidelity, and Deeper Shade of Blue. 

High Fidelity kicked off the first full day of music. A regular part of their show, the band featured a couple of twin banjo tunes with Jeremy Stephens and Daniel Amick.

Every band and attendee was grateful for the warm, sunny day since the pre-pandemic festival weather had been either cold or rainy.

Joe Mullins announced from the stage, “We’ve brought beautiful weather with us from southern Ohio.”

“We’re happy to have sunshine and happy to be back,” stressed Scott Burgess of Deeper Shade of Blue.

Steve Dilling was grateful as well. “We’ve been at this festival every year since we’ve been a band.”

Saturday’s show runs noon until 11:00 p.m. and will feature the Lonesome River Band, Appalachian Road Show, The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, Terry Baucom & Dukes of Drive, Backline, and the Parlor House Band. 

Branch stated, “I’m happy to be hosting Big Lick after two years away from being able to have a festival due to the pandemic. We have a superb lineup and the response has been amazing. This shows me that people are ready to get out and get back to a normal life of great bluegrass music and family fun.”

The Big Lick Bluegrass Festival is located at 640 S Oak Ridge Road (Hwy 205), Oakboro, NC 28129. Saturday ticket prices are $35 for adults, ages 12-16 $10, under 12 free. For tickets and information, call 704-985-6987.

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.