Largest turnout ever for Doyle Lawson Festival

Paul Williams and Doyle Lawson at the 2019 Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver Festival – photo by Sandy Hatley

For the past 39 years, Doyle Lawson, along with the Loflin family, has hosted the Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver Bluegrass Festival at Denton FarmPark in central North Carolina. Originally held the week after the fourth of July, the event was moved to Mother’s Day weekend after a few years of battling the sweltering heat of summer. Since then, the music event has continued to gain in popularity and has become a favored venue for both the performers and spectators. This year, the festival drew the largest number of campers since its inception.

Event promoter, Karen Loflin Miller, shared, “The festival was a lot bigger this year with more campers.”

Denton FarmPark is a family owned historical park with 15 restored buildings including a general store, grist mill, church, plantation house, blacksmith shop, and log cabin. A full-size steam train encompasses the park on a 1½ mile track. Its campground accommodates more than 500 campsites.

On the heels of his seventy-fifth birthday, Lawson’s festival featured three days of top notch entertainment. Bands performing included Blue Highway, the Seldom Scene, Terry Baucom & the Dukes of Drive, the Malpass Brothers, Nothin’ Fancy, High Fidelity, Darin & Brooke Aldridge, Jeff Parker & Company, and many more. The highlight of Saturday’s show was a reunion of Lawson and his 84 year old former Sunny Mountain Boy bandmate, Paul Williams. The prolific songwriter, who has copyrighted more than 160 songs, performed several of his tunes that have become bluegrass standards such as My Walking Shoes and Prayer Bells of Heaven.

Even though a mid-afternon downpour interrupted Blue Highway’s Saturday afternoon performance, the rain failed to dampen spirits. The show took an early supper break and pickers gathered in campers for jams. The clouds eventually parted and the entertainment resumed, with Blue Highway closing out the evening with an extended performance. 

Tim Stafford took to the stage (for his first time) sitting in front of the microphone on a high stool. A founding member of the group, Stafford performed despite having experienced gall bladder surgery last week.

“I have three holes in my belly,” the lead singer and guitarist shared with the audience. “Hopefully, next week I’ll be back to standing.”

Brown Loflin, 84 year old proprietor of the Denton FarmPark, also made a brief appearance on the festival grounds on Saturday. Just released from the hospital and headed for rehab, Loflin’s wife, Ruby, brought him briefly by to check on his festival, visit with attendees, and enjoy a bowl of homemade ice cream from a vendor.

“It’s good to be here,” shared the Loflin patriarch.

Plans are already in the works for the 40th anniversary of the festival for Mother’s Day 2020.

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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.