Rhonda Vincent and Gene Watson at the 2017 Milan Bluegrass Festival – photo © Bill Warren
Friday at the 2017 Milan Bluegrass Festival was kicked off by Michigan Upper Peninsula’s own Chasin’ Steel. They trend to the more progressive side of bluegrass music and provided a good time for the audience. Breaking Grass then made their second appearance at Milan. They were at the festival last year and provide high energy music for the crowd.
Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers have become one of the top in-demand bands on the circuit. They provide a great blend of new, old, and gospel bluegrass music. Probably the hottest young band in bluegrass music was next, Flatt Lonesome, who takes everyone to a place where sibling harmonies are unmatched.
The Southeast Michigan Bluegrass Music Association inducted legendary song writers Pete Goble and Leroy Drumm into their Hall of Honor. Leroy’s son Roger accepted the honor on both gentlemen’s behalf. Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out closed Friday’s show as the band has for quite a number of years.
Saturday’s festivities kicked off with Fiddlin’ Dixie and the Woodshed Pickers doing a children’s program that included canjos, banjos, and shoebox guitars. The stage show was opened by Volume Five. They are a group of seasoned musicians that always give full measure. Trinity River appeared for the second year. This family band is growing in bluegrass and the family harmonies are becoming a force to be reckoned with at many venues.
The Grascals came back to the Milan stage after a year away. Terry Eldredge was ill and unable to join the band at Milan, but John Bryan stepped into his shoes and the band did not miss a beat. Terry will be back with the band in another week.
The Southeast Michigan Bluegrass Music Association inducted four of the most important people in the history of the early festivals held at the KC Campground. Fred Ellis and Robert White were the festival promoters in the early 80’s. Fred’s daughter Peggy accepted on his behalf and Robert’s daughters, Jan and Joni accepted on his behalf. Cayce and Ruth Kiger built the KC Campground, and Ruth was the driving force behind the early festivals. The early festivals stopped when Ruth passed in the mid-80’s. Ricky Kiger accepted on his parent’s behalf.
Rhonda Vincent helped the festival staff and fans surprise current promoter and campground owner, Mark Gaynier with a plaque and a cake to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the current Milan festivals. Rhonda and the Rage are a Saturday staple at Milan. She has headlined Saturday for many years. Country legend, Gene Watson closed out the 20th festival. Gene has been entertaining music fans for fifty four years! Rhonda joined Gene for a couple of songs from their duet album. Gene still provides some of the finest country music that is available today.
The 2018 Milan Bluegrass Festival is scheduled for August 2, 3, and 4. Mark your calendars.