The Friday stage show at the Norwalk Music Festival was kicked off by a local band, Vertical Limit, playing strong, traditional bluegrass. They were followed by Columbus, Ohio’s Out of Mind Bluegrass Band. Co-promoter Kurt Hickman brought his band, Harbourtown to the stage next. Newly formed Mitch Jr. and Drivin’ Time along with Kyle Estep brought their great sound to the Norwalk stage. Indiana’s Blue Mafia has rapidly become a festival circuit favorite. Junior Sisk and Rambler’s Choice were the final band on stage for the day. They were joined by co-promoter Chris Smith and did a rousing Ralph Stanley tribute.
Saturday morning brought a special show to the stage. Chris Smith and Kurt Hickman brought out a group of youngsters to showcase the next generation of bluegrass musicians. Chris and Kurt are great supporters of young pickers. Norwalk festival favorites Ottawa County followed the youngsters. Then Ohio/West Virginia band Idletymes gave the crowd a generous helping of traditional bluegrass music. The Wayfarers take festival goers back to the traditional string band sounds that are the roots of bluegrass music.
Co-promoter Chris Smith’s band Caney Creek gave the audience of fine traditional bluegrass music. During their evening set they were joined by special guest Mike Prater. Mike and his brother Dave sang a couple tunes from their days as the Prater Brothers Band. Their passionate rendition of The Pilgrim brought a standing ovation. Don Rigsby joined the band for a couple of tunes also.
Acoustic Edge is a band that is a throwback to the country, rock-a-billy bands of the ’70s and ’80s. They had many in the audience dancing during their evening set. The Band of Ruhks highlighted the day with some of the best harmony singing one ever gets to hear. They showcase Ronnie Bowman’s songwriting, Don Rigsby’s unmatched tenor singing, and the very best guitar picking of Kenny Smith. John Meyer has joined the band and is one of the finest young banjo pickers around.
The Norwalk Bluegrass Festival supports Alzheimer’s research and also provides college scholarships to two Norwalk City High School students. One is for a student going into the medical field and one for music education.
Next year’s festival dates are July 13-15, 2017.