RenoFest 2017 winners announced

Backline Bluegrass, 1st prize winners in the 2017 RenoFest Band Competition

The contest winners from this year’s RenoFest in Hartsville, SC have been announced. The annual festival, held the 4th weekend in March, honors the music and the memory of the great Don Reno, a South Carolina native born in Buffalo, SC in 1926.

The top award in the Bluegrass Band competition with its $1500 prize went to Backline Bluegrass from Pacolet, SC. Katelyn Ingardia sings lead and plays guitar, Travis Tucker is on reso-guitar, James Shepherd on banjo, Jason Belue on bass, and Louis Hughes on mandolin. They have been playing together for the past year.

Unlike many band contests, RenoFest requires that competitors be an actual band, not a group put together just for the festival.

The top three finishers were:

  1. Backline Bluegrass – Pacolet, SC ($1500)
  2. Trailblazers – Mount Ulla NC ($500)
  3. Catawba Riverkings – Davidson NC ($300)

In the instrumental contests, contestants are judged through two rounds of performances, just as they are for the bands. The top prize on the banjo side this year was a Davis banjo with Don Reno’s image on the resonator, and for guitar, a mahogany dreadnaught made by Virginia Luthiers Wayne Henderson, Gerald Anderson, and Spencer Strickland.

And the winners are:


  1. Daniel Thrailkill – Mt Ulla NC
  2. Presley Barker – Wilkesboro NC
  3. Andy Hatfield – Peoria IL
  4. Allen Shadd – Lake Wylie, SC
  5. James McDowell – Hendersonville, NC


  1. Jason Bales – Gatlinburg, TN
  2. Billy Cockman – Sherrills Ford, NC
  3. William Odio – Travelers Rest, SC
  4. Kenny Haney – Roopville, GA
  5. Spencer Hatcher – Timberville, VA

Banjo contestants were required to perform at least one of Don Reno’s memorable tunes in the final round.

Congratulations and well done all!

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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.