Big Lick kicks off with Lonesome River Band

Lonesome River Band at Big Lick Bluegrass Festival (4/18/24) – photo courtesy Big Lick Bluegrass Festival

The 20th annual Big Lick Bluegrass Festival, located in central North Carolina near the small town of Oakboro, is underway. The three-day outdoor festival, one of the first of the season in NC, kicked off its first night with an open mic featuring local talent and, new to the schedule, also featured a fast-paced, hard-driving two-hour set by the Lonesome River Band.

The summer-like temperatures made for a warm, enjoyable evening of music. Local bands included the Edenfield Family (three grandkids of former Deeper Shade of Blue banjoist, Jim Fraley) plus Carolina Homestead, River Ridge, and Radio Flyer. With Sideline returning for their second year as host band of the festival, members Steve Dilling and Skip Cherryholmes served as MCs for opening night.

Cherryholmes, who brought his two young children on stage at the family-style festival, was obviously grateful for the way the evening was playing out. “Welcome to Big Lick!” he enthusiastically began. “We’ve got beautiful weather, great music, and good food. What a great way to kick off the weekend!”

Aiden, Cherryholmes’ son, took the mic and added, “I was so excited when we got here and I hope you are, too.”

“We’re so honored to be host band again,” said Dilling, who pointed out that last year’s festival marked the end of Sideline as a touring band. The band now only plays a few select dates annually. “We’ll keep doing it (serving as host band) as long as Jeff (Branch) will have us.”

Sammy Shelor, LRB banjo-picker, noted the improvements to the festival park. “It’s great to be back at Big Lick. It looks a lot different from last year!”

Promoter Branch declared, “This has been the biggest Thursday night crowd I’ve ever had. Very few problems. Lonesome River Band is an amazing band that’s entertaining the crowd. Looking forward to the next two days, and it will continue to get better.”

Friday’s lineup features Sideline along with The Grascals, Tennessee Bluegrass Band, Deeper Shade of Blue, and Drive Time. Saturday’s show includes two sets, afternoon and evening, by Authentic Unlimited, The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, Junior Sisk, and the Parlor House Band. Sideline will close out the festival with an extended two-hour set.

Big Lick Festival Park is located at 640 S Oak Ridge Rd, Oakboro, NC. For tickets or camping Information, call Jeff Branch: 704-985-6987.

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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.