Maness Family celebrates over 40 years of bluegrass festivals

In 1978, John D Maness, of Snow Camp, NC, started the Bass Mountain Bluegrass Festival. John Sr or Big John (also of the Bass Mountain Boys Bluegrass Band with brothers Jeff and Joel), passed away on Dec 1, 2002. Having learned the ropes from his father, John Jr (Lil John) and his wife, Natalie, took over the music festival in the fall of 2008. In the spring of 2009, the couple changed the name to Lil John’s Mountain Music Festival.

Celebrating their 41st year this past weekend, the Manesses selected Sideline as the host band for their family’s festival. Other bands performing included Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out, Balsam Range, Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper, Darin and Brooke Aldridge, and Hammertowne. Thursday night featured a Johnson Mountain Boys Tribute Band consisting of Dudley Connell, Steve Dilling, Michael Cleveland, Bailey Coe, Jason Moore, and Dave McLaughlin.

“Being the host means so much to me personally,” shared Sideline’s banjoist, Steve Dilling. “I’ve been coming here since 1980. I have so many memories here; it just seems right to be the host band.”

The weekend featured fun family activities with Sideline including a covered dish meal, bingo, and a corn hole tournament. Dilling’s family was well represented at the event, from his 80 year old mom, Linda, to 1 1/2 year old grandson, Aiden Cherryholmes.

Natalie Maness added, “We love to see the folks come back year after year… like a big family reunion. Bluegrass music brings young and old together to make priceless memories.”

Their web site states, “Lil John’s Mountain Music Festival believes in a positive attitude and giving the bluegrass fans quality entertainment. With your support, we will be able to give you the best bluegrass festival possible and preserve this heritage for the future of our children. We would like to emphasize that, Lil John’s Mountain Music Festival has a relaxed, peaceful farm setting, for families of all ages to come enjoy the bluegrass event.”

Lil John’s is located on Cane Creek Campground, 1256 Longest Acre Road, Snow Camp, NC 27349. Plans are already underway for next year’s event.

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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.