Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival celebrates 25 years

October in Oklahoma equals leaves turning from green to amber and orange; however, in Guthrie, OK (which is the epicenter of bluegrass in the state), the definition of fall is the Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival. The brainchild of the late fiddle legend, Byron Berline, the festival began its journey back in 1984. Berline and his family were residing in Los Angeles, his wife Bette had grown up in Guthrie, and frequent trips back home were the norm. One trip in 1984, Byron and Joe Hutchinson, former state representative, began discussing Berline’s dream of having a bluegrass festival that would allow national and international artists to co-exist in a festival setting. In 1996, the dream came to fruition.

Berline worked hands on with the festival until his untimely passing July 10 of last year. However, his daughter, Becca Berline, and his nephew, Barry “Bones” Patton, along with the OIBF board members, stepped up to the plate and celebrated the 25th year with a three day festival that was packed with talent.

As the leaves were falling from the tall cottonwood trees, the sounds of live music filled the air. From the Cottonwood Creek Stage, to the Youth Tent and The Byron Berline Stage one could hear music from every nook and cranny. 

Day one performers on the main stage were The Red Dirt Rangers, Good Friends Bluegrass Band, Cowboy Jim Garling ( Western Swing Hall of Famer), The Bonham’s, Mallory Eagle, The Hunt Family Band, The Western Flyers with guest, Redd Volkaert, Pretend Friend, Bob Wiles & Cowboy Jones, Trapp (Berline’s former flat top picker), Mullenax and Moore, Monica Taylor and her Red Dirt Ramblers, Barry “Bones” Patton & Tim McDonald, and the evening was topped off with the annual Jim Paul Blair’s Random Band Jam. The random jam is a tradition at OIBF and has been celebrated for 23 years. “The random band jam gives everyone the opportunity to perform on the main stage with their musical heroes,” said Jean Wiles. The way it works is you put your name in a jar labeled with the instrument of your choice, from guitar to bass, to vocal to “other” (harmonica, saw, shaker, who knows). Names are drawn and each band will have 20 minutes to practice two songs, come up with a band name, and get ready to perform. As always, the band jam is one of the highlights of the OIBF.

Friday, day two, there was no let up in performance. The stage was roaring with music by 10:00 a.m. Onstage that day were Cowboy Jim Garling, The Western Flyers with guest Redd Volkaert, Wood Willow, Cliff Top, Tim McDonald Band, Blue Canyon Boys, Hunt Brothers Band, John Moore, Steve Spurgin and Rick Faris. This was all before dinner time. Normally, OIBF breaks for lunch and supper but not in 2022. While all things were buzzing on the main stage, there was a workshop in the youth tent. Taught in the round by Joey McKenzie, Ridge Roberts, Jens Kruger, Steven Moore, and Mike Munford, there wasn’t an empty seat as everyone’s attention was on the instructors.  

Music was performed for 12 + hours non-stop on the Berline Stage. The evening squall of winds were bitter and people donned their sweatshirts and snuggled under blankets, but nothing deterred what was to come. After 6:00 working their way up to the headliner, were Pretend Friend, Steelwind, The Kruger Brothers, The Grascals, and headliner Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen. The Kruger Brothers referred to Guthrie as home, as they had performed at all but four years of the festival. Uwe said, “We are glad to be home and be back with family. This is not a festival, this is family.” When The Grascals took center stage, mandolinist Danny Roberts said, “I would trade my shirt for a coat.” A true Oklahoman loaned him his Oklahoma State satin jacket, and Danny played the rest of the hour wearing it. Now you would think you had seen the headliner of this day, at least twice, but there was still more. Multi Grammy nominated,Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen brought a torrent of multi-level and mind blowing bluegrass.  

Day three didn’t slow down a bit. The Baker Family, Cliff Top, Monica Taylor and Her Red Dirt Ramblers, Blue Canyon Boys, Wood Willow, and the Tim McDonald Band were busy keeping the Berline stage hot, while the Youth tent was filled with entertainers under 18, who were wanting to take home the OIBF Championship trophy. These “pickers of tomorrow” and champions for the day were:


  1.  McKenna Peterson
  2. Stephen Russell
  3. Grace Williamson


  1. Braxton Rogers
  2.  Brandon Chang
  3.  Grace Williamson

Upright Bass

  1. Elizabeth Williamson
  2. Grace Williamson


  1. Miller Bazemore
  2. Grace Williamson
  3. Elizabethe Williamson


  1. Travis Schoonover
  2. Tyler Blazemore


  1. Grace Williamson
  2. Brandon Chang
  3. Cypress Bazemore

Family Band

  1. Cynthia Ridge Band

While the competition was ongoing in the Youth Tent, the auction, which funds the Youth scholarships was happening on the main stage. A set of bones handcrafted by Jim Triggs held an interesting story. “These are made from a piece of wood that is from a project at Walnut Valley in Winfield, KS. Barry asked me if I could make a set of bones out of it. Barry has autographed them and they will be up on the auction.” The auction, as always, went over well.

Immediately following the auction was yet another workshop. This was for guitar and mandolin. Instructors were Thomas Trapp, Uwe Kruger, John Moore, Sam Grounds, Rick Faris, Redd Volkaert, and Frank Solivan. I found myself worn out at this point, but knew there was still more bluegrass around the corner. Trapp, Mullenax & Moore, along with Steelwind set the stage for The Kruger Brothers, John Moore, Steve Spurgin, Rick Faris and The Grascals. During their performance, Uwe Kruger invited Michael Cleveland onto stage. This was just a sample of the headlining performance. Cleveland and his Flamekeepers set the stage afire with Sally Goodin to begin their set. Bette Berline, widow of Byron, and Sue Hickman, widow of John Hickman, had front row seats and their smiles said it all.

Under the Oklahoma sky, filled with a near full moon, everyone was hypnotized with all that OIBF 2022 had held. The festival hosted almost 3,000 bluegrass lovers of every age, and had a plethora of talents that one will never forget. Byron would have been proud.   

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About the Author

Pamm Tucker

Growing up in Oklahoma, music runs throughout Pamm Tucker's veins. Her earliest memory of music is standing beside her Grandma's upright, singing. "Trust in The Lord". Little did the 5 year old realize that this was the foundation of things to come. Being very active in 4-H, Pamm was elected as reporter at the age of 9 and held this position for many years. Taking extensive journalism marketing and free-lance writing classes while attending college helped to spark her interest in being a journalist. Her skills helped her acquire the position of journalist for the Northern Oklahoma college school newspaper. An Oklahoma native and no stranger to music, she has performed with the likes of Lulu Roman, Jean Shepherd, Willie Nelson, Tanya Tucker (no relation) Gene Watson and Charlie McClain just to name a few. Even today you can find her tapping her foot to every genre of music.