Blissfield Bluegrass on the River 2017

The 7th Blissfield Bluegrass on the River is in the history books. This was the first year that the festival was managed and hosted by the Southeast Michigan Bluegrass Music Association. The one day festival is held in Bachmayer Park in Blissfield, Michigan. BBoR is a free event sponsored by local businesses. The Blissfield Rotary was the co-presenter of the event.

This past Saturday saw a large crowd enjoy six local bands on the main stage, and five additional performers on the side stage. The show was opened by Bobby and Patsy Ann Hutch and Grand Ole Country. Bobby is a SMBMA Hall of Honor member who has been playing bluegrass and country music for 68 years. One of the unintended themes of the event was the appearance of family dominated bands from the Southeast Michigan area.

The Huron River Band features brothers Ralph and Steve Sandifer with a great supporting cast. They play a good blend of traditional bluegrass and old country music. Next up was New County Grass that features Duane Estep and sons Brent and Kyle. Brent became father to a little girl Saturday morning so long time area musician, Jim LaPrad, held down the bass position for the day. The band is rounded out by banjo player, Dean Dubois. They play a blend of traditional and newer bluegrass music.

Dove Creek came to the show from Kentucky. Band leader, Pam Combs, is an area native. Her comment was: “I love to come home.” Pam is one of bluegrass music’s finest voices. Ottawa County Bluegrass played next. They feature Joe Mitchell Sr. and sons Joe Jr., and Dennis. The band is rounded out by bass player, Vern Brink. They take us back to the old days of bluegrass music. Fossil Creek is a northwest Ohio/southeast Michigan based band that is drawing more and more recognition from the greater bluegrass community. They are beginning to tour widely.

One of the event’s primary outreach is to kids. Fiddlin’ Dixie and the Woodshed Pickers (Dixie Andres and her three daughters) put on a kids program. She had over 30 participants this year. One of the kids won a guitar as part of the program. A fun part of the day is a drawing from the jammers to form a band that plays on the side stage. SMBMA’s own Maggie Bilby was the banjo picker. The jamming area was busy all day. It was hosted by SMBMA officers Tim Jackson and John Bayerl.

The final three members of the 2017 SMBMA Hall of Honor were inducted. There are Freddie Newby, Roy and Faye McGinnis, and Dana Cupp Sr. The honors were accepted by Destiny Newby, Lisa McGinnis McCormack, and Dana Cupp Jr. SMBMA member Jerry Eicher, who is also the host of the Ol’ Hippie Bluegrass show, was again the Emcee for the Festival. One of his duties was auctioning pies from Beckey’s Kountry Kitchen. Owner, Randy Beckey is the founder of BBoR.

The pictures of the guitar winner and the Jam Band were provided by Dixie Andres.

The Southeast Michigan Bluegrass Music Association thanks all of the sponsors, volunteers, vendors, bands, and especially all who came out to listen to the great music. Next year’s Blissfield Bluegrass on the River is tentatively scheduled for August 18, 2018.

  • Ruth O’Donnell

    I’ve been following Fossil Creek for several years, what a fun bunch of people who write and play some really beautiful songs. I’m happy that they are getting well deserved recognition.