Musicians Against Childhood Cancer festival calls it quits

After 23 years of providing top quality bluegrass entertainment, and donating many hundreds of thousands of dollars to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the vaunted Musicians Against Childhood Cancer Music Festival is coming to an end.

Darrel and Phyllis Adkins have been doing festivals for 43 years now, starting out as The Bluegrass Classic at Frontier Ranch, just east of Columbus, OH in Pataskala in 1984. In 1998 they moved to Hoover Y Park in Lockbourne, OH where they continued the Classic.

Starting in 2000 the Adkins found themselves dealing with a cancer diagnosis for their daughter, Mandy, not quite 21 years of age. Doctors had confirmed that she was suffering from an inoperable brain stem tumor, and as the Adkins were coming and going with Mandy to various doctors and clinics, they were struck by the tremendous toll it all takes on a family, and determined to do their part to assist in the research funding for such diseases.

On November 25, 2000 Mandy Adkins passed away from her battle with cancer. She had been treated at St Jude, where the doctors were quite surprised by the way this cancer had wrapped around her brain stem, and they worked diligently to try to treat something with which they were not familiar. The family had been very impressed with the care their daughter received there, and wanted to do their part to help the facility thrive.

So in 2000 they launched a bluegrass event that attracted both artists and fans from all over the central US to attend The MACC, the Musicians Against Childhood Cancer festival. Performers agreed to play the show at a reduced rate with a nod towards the fact that proceeds were donated to St Jude, and fans already knew that the Adkins put on a first class event with clean and orderly facilities, and a great family atmosphere.

In 2012 Rural Rhythm Records released a 2-CD album of music recorded at the MACC, along with one song, Life Goes On, written by Dale Pyatt and Steve Thomas, and recorded in the studio by Larry Cordle, Jerry Salley, Carl Jackson, Rickey Wasson, Randy Kohrs, and Ronnie Bowman as the title cut. Like the festival itself, all proceeds from album sales went to St. Jude.

Over the years The MACC regularly donated tens of thousands of dollars to childhood cancer research. The 2022 festival raised $50,000 for St Jude, with close to $1 million in total donations since 2000.

The Cardinal Center Campground in Marengo became home for The MACC in 2019. Phyllis tells us that for the first time they had sufficient power for campers and RVs, plus quality water and sewer facilities, and gravel sites and roads in the campground.

But now, the Adkins have announced that it is all coming to an end, and the 2022 MACC festival will have been the last. They say that there are a number of factors contributing to this decision, largely the new management at the Cardinal Center changing how they host events like this. With this weighing on their minds, Darrel and Phyllis say that it simply wasn’t possible to continue.

This is a great loss for the bluegrass community in the central US. We grieve with them over the end of the Musicians Against Childhood Cancer Music Festival.

Treatments have been developed now for the type of cancer that took Mandy’s life, something that gives Darrel and Phyllis great comfort.

The Adkins will continue to be involved in bluegrass music, and Phyllis said that they are definitely not giving up on St. Jude. Both she and Darrell remain deeply thankful to all the artists, volunteers, and fans that kept this festival going for 23 years. As she told us on the phone, “We are deeply blessed.”

Hats off to the Adkins and all the others involved in pulling this off since 2000!

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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.