Ohio Bluegrass Winter Weekend recap

Kyle Jarvis and IIIrd Generation at Ohio Bluegrass Winter Weekend – photo by Chris Smith

The Ohio Bluegrass Winter Weekend was an enormous success. Hosted by Clay Hess, his wife Samantha, and The Clay Hess Band, the show was held March 8 and 9 at the Lafayette Hotel in Marietta, Ohio. This was the first time at the new venue, as it outgrew its former location at the Burr Oak Lodge. The weekend was full of exciting things going on for all bluegrass fans. Instrument raffles, band contests, workshops, and stage shows. Like most of us that attend these shows, Clay has a deep passion for bluegrass and goes above and beyond to spread the good word about the music. I spoke to a number of people in the hallway of the venue who had never even heard of bluegrass and decided to venture out and see what it was all about. Marietta is a very supportive town in aspect to music, including all genres.

The weekend started on Friday the 8th with stage shows from Randy Murphy and Nowhere Bound, Caney Creek, Midnight Storm, and Heather & Tony Mabe. After the stage shows were done, Clay and his band provided live bluegrass karaoke for anyone who wanted to get up and sing. It is something attendees absolutely love, getting a chance to sing with backup from a professional bluegrass band, and is a dream come true for some. Mike Shepard from Parkersburg, WV was there taking pictures for the show and did a phenomenal job. Bluegrass videos flooded social media from fans like Zelda Riffel from Greenville,Ohio, and Eloise Vogel from St Mary’s, Ohio.

Saturday started instrument workshops at 10:00 a.m., followed by the band contest at noon. Four bands entered, Lost, Lonesome and Foggy from Pittsburgh; Branded Bluegrass from Indiana; Kyle Jarvis and IIIrd Generation from LaGrange, Ohio; and Kaufman Road from Columbus, Ohio. The contest was judged on points for vocals, instrumentation, etc. Clay announced from the stage that all four bands scored so closely, at some moments there were only 5-10 points separating the contestants. Kyle Jarvis and IIIrd Generation took home first place with a great final version of the old Reno and Smiley tune, Long Gone. First, second, and third place all won a specified level of studio time at Clay’s recording studio, 7flat. On a personal note, Kyle lives not too far from me, and I’ve watched him blossom into a great singer and performer. Super proud of my friend.

After the band contest, Clay did a band scramble. Members names from various bands were thrown into a bucket, drawn, and bands are put together to perform for attendees. Stage shows followed by Caney Creek, New County Grass, Nightflyer, Clay Hess Band, and Heather & Tony Mabe. At 10:00 the drawing for a Recording King guitar, donated by My Favorite Guitars, and a Davis banjo, donated by Tim Davis. Tom Patrick won the guitar, and Angel Lewis won the banjo. In a touching revelation, I congratulated Angel on her win and she proceeded to tell me that in 2005, her sister was taken in a car accident, at which point she sold her banjo and lost interest. This Davis banjo landed right where it was supposed to be! Congratulations again Angel!

Emceeing duties for the weekend were handled by Dale Gruber and Evan Dickerson. Great job by both gentlemen. It has been a dream of Evan’s to perform emcee work, and Clay and his wife made it happen. Sound was provided by Dave and Traci Chichester, and as always was top notch. GBS Productions is one of the best in the business, and Dave and Traci always make sure the sound is the best it can be.

The show will be held again next year, same time, same place. If you didn’t attend this year, make sure you make plans for 2020. Any groups interested in the band competition next year can contact Clay through his Facebook page, the festival’s Facebook page or visit www.ohiobluegrass.com.