In 2010 the bluegrass community lost a young solider, banjo player and fireman, Houston Caldwell. His love for the banjo and dedication to his community through his service is remembered and celebrated each year at HoustonFest, held at Felts Park, in the heart of Galax, Virginia.
Keeping the event entertaining for the entire family, vendors, children’s areas and attractions, as well as multiple stages for workshops and additional bands, fill the park. This year the Main Stage opened with the Wolfe Brothers, followed by the White Top Mtn. Band, Jonny & The Jambusters, Loose Strings, and Dogwood & Holly. Sierra Hull completed the early portion of the first day. After the opening ceremony, the Jeff Little Trio took the stage with a piano fused set receiving an energetic response from the quickly filling crowd.
Hailing from Haywood County, North Carolina, Balsam Range continues to blend playful energy with a level of committed professionalism that truly sets them apart and has earned them numerous IBMA awards. The Rhythm-N-Motion Cloggers provided a lively transition between Balsam Range and the Friday evening headliner Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys.
Dr. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys welcomed a number of special guests to the stage: the Whites, Ricky Skaggs, and Ralph Stanley II. James Alan Shelton’s cross-picking, Dewey Brown’s classic fiddling, Mitchell Van Dyke’s Stanley-style banjo playing, and the vocal and bass contributions of Randall Joe Hibbits, support Dr. Stanley as he continues performing at “eighty-seven years young.” The affection for Stanley is clearly seen from the enthusiasm and hugs of quest performers to the cheers of the audience. As one performer noted, “everyone remembers the first time they heard Ralph Stanley sing.”
However, HoustonFest is not just about the music. It is, as the mission states, dedicated to service, community, heritage and youth. Galax Fire Chief, David Hankley reflects that Houston is the reason for the event. Through the Fire Departments and collaborative efforts with volunteers and event coordinators the community comes together each year in celebration and remembrance. The event is also a core part of the bluegrass community. Nathan Stanley shared that he was honored to perform at the festival and remembered visiting the Fairview Ruritan Club where he first saw Houston perform.
HoustonFest reflects the amazing community building power of bluegrass music and continues to offer stellar line ups each year. Set to perform on Saturday are: Close Kin Our Roots Run Deep Youth Project, Generation Bluegrass Youth Project, Blue Highway, The Boxcars, The Whites, Lonesome River Band and many more. Day passes can be purchased (cash only) at the gate.