Mansfield Jamfest 2019 shares the wealth

Last weekend saw the 3rd annual Mansfield Jamfest in Mansfield, Ohio. Festival promoters Chris and Missy Smith took over the festival from Missy’s dad in 2017, and the event has seen record growth in the last 3 years. The crowd nearly doubled from last year with only a handful of camping spots left by Friday evening. The festival was originally named Helping Families with Cancer, with the intent on donating proceeds to families who were struggling with paying everyday bills while a family member was undergoing treatment. Chris and Missy have kept that vision alive.

Tuesday was the first official day of the festival, with activities planned for early arrivers. At 1:00 p.m., many of the attendees loaded up for a tour of the historic Mansfield Reformatory, the site of the filming of Shawshank Redemption, Air Fore One, Lock Up, and many more movies. Spectators were able to go into the cell blocks of the prison and even into solitary confinement. The prison was shut down in 1990 and moved to a new facility. Many of the artifacts from the movies are still inside. Then at 7:00 p.m. it was time for bingo. One of the attendees of the bluegrass festival took home the black out jackpot prize.

Wednesday the group ventured to Kingwood Center. The mansion and gardens are 2 miles from the festival. The grounds were the home to Ohio Brass owner Charles King, and in 1976 was put on the national registry and opened to the public. King’s mansion is beautiful and the gardens are breathtaking. Wednesday evening was a euchre tournament hosted by Don and Jean Loveland. Samuel Middleton won first, Lori Boutin won second, and both donated their pay back to the kids program that took place Saturday.

Thursday kicked off the music for the weekend. Bluegrassholes, Echo Valley, Crabgrass, Blue Universe, and Kyle Jarvis and Third Generation played on stage. There was also a tribute to Tony Rice Thursday evening, featuring Chris Smith, Mitch Meadors, Kyle Estep, Jimmy Haynes, Gil Benson, Curtis Oyler, and Issac Paikton. A pig roast and pot luck dinner was also held in the stage area during the 2 hour supper break. Marcus Childers was the official hog roaster. This dinner has become a tradition at Mansfield and the attendees love the food and fellowship. Evan Dickerson was the MC for the day and did a fantastic job. He also received and award from Chris and Missy for all his help with the festival this year.

Friday saw acts Brian Holbrooks and Poor Bottom Grass, Ottawa County, Harbourtown, Remingtton Ryde, Caney Creek, ClayBank, and The Grascals. ClayBank’s Zack Arnold said it was a bittersweet night for him playing with the band before hitting the road with Sideline. Chris and Missy also had a big suprise for one of the festival goers. A young lady by the name of Stormy Cushing who was involved in a serious car accident and is now paraplegic, received a fan and supporter of the year award for attending every Mansfield Jamfest. Emcee Arlin Bradford did an outstanding job, and even took some aerial photos of the festival from his plane each morning.

Saturday kicked off with the annual “Chris’ kids show.” Chris Smith invites kids on stage no matter what level of player they are to offer a chance at exposure, and possibly peak interest in a youngster. This year participants were Logan Leab, Curtis Coleman, Mitchee Meadors, Luke Boutin, Noah Gilliman, and Emma Harmon. All the kids did well and attendees loved every minute. Acts for the day were Kyle Jarvis and Third Generation, New County Grass, Larry Efaw & the Bluegrass Mountaineers, Carolina Blue, Acoustic Edge, and Flatt Lonesome. Another bittersweet day as it was Flatt Lonesomes last appearance in the state of Ohio before disbanding.

Saturday was also the day that the festival gave back to the community and the bluegrass family in Ohio. Chris says, “We have been very fortunate with our festival, we have a huge support group here, and we wanted to really give back big time this year.” Chris and Missy picked a charity in the Mansfield community to donate to, Project One-Recovery Road, an organization that helps young people in Mansfield beat drug addiction. Mansfield Jamfest donated $500 cash to Joe Nichols and the organization, the exact amount to enter a youth into the Teen Challenge program. The Recovery rate for someone trying to beat opioids is 5%, through the Teen Challenge program, however, they are much greater.

The evening brought the Helping Families with Cancer portion of the weekend. With the help of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Missy found a young man in Mansfield who has t-cell leukemia. His name is Jaden Gross, an 8th grader at Mansfield Middle School. Grocery store chain Meijer donated $500 worth of gift cards, and proceeds from the festival were given. Also private donations from Bob Small, The Mitchell family, Joyce and Terry Cadle, Roy King, and Tanya Morrow were given to the family. All and all, Jaden’s family recived $2322.

$200 dollars was also donated to someone who has attended every festival at Mansfield. Sandy Dobbins’ grandson is having health issues, and Chris and Missy thought it was only right to return the support.

Daniel Mullins was the MC for Saturday. Festival sponsors were Ploger Transportation, Graham Chevrolet, Dimit truck and trailer repair, Meijer, Kentucky Friends of Coal, MTD, Dove Multimedia, Flattop Graphics and D’Addario.

Smith says, ” We hope that we can continue to see the growth we have the last couple years. What’s happening at this festival is something very special.”

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.