Start with a beautiful Texas October weekend. Add the beautiful Farmers Branch Historical Park location and mix in some of the top bluegrass talent around today. Put it all together and then offer it to the fans for free. Yep, I said free!
That was the case at the Bloomin’ Bluegrass Festival held October 15-16 in Farmers Branch, Texas. The festival, sponsored by the City of Farmers Branch (just outside of Dallas) and the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation, featured J. D. Crowe and the New South, Seldom Scene, The Boxcars, Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, The Traveling McCourys with Dan Tyminski, The Claire Lynch Band, Jim Hurst, Jeff & Vida, The Herrins and Highland Crossing.
While this was the first bluegrass festival for Farmers Branch, it was obvious that the city and the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation folks made sure that this was a first class operation. The grounds were immaculate, the stage set up was top notch and the program, hosted by Alan Tompkins of the Heritage Foundation, was professional and well run.
While the afternoon acts had to contend with the bright Texas sunshine (playing periodic havoc with the instrument tuning) it was clear that the visiting artists enjoyed the festive atmosphere and beautiful surroundings as well. There were also ample opportunities to jam under the trees, behind the gazebo or in the shade of the historic buildings located around the park.
As you can probably guess from the bands participating in this festival, they all put on excellent performances. The Boxcars continue to demonstrate their instrumental and vocal talents – this is a real band, not just a collection of super-pickers. The Traveling McCourys brought along Dan Tyminski to handle the guitar and add his vocal chops – and they put on quite a show. The Seldom Scene seem to keep getting better with time – Dudley McConnell & Lou Reid were meant to sing together. Claire Lynch, IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year, showed why that honor was long overdue. Jim Hurst took the stage as a solo artist and dazzled the crowd with his music. Jeff & Vida added some Louisiana soul to their bluegrass set. The Herrins and Highland Crossing both delivered heartfelt sets. And finally there was J. D. Crowe & the New South – well, what more can you say about a legend other than he and his band delivered the goods yet again.
Another first for the festival was the First Annual Bluegrass Heritage Foundation Star Award presented to Rhonda Vincent. She was recognized for her commitment to Bluegrass music and the many fans.
The City of Farmers Branch also used this festival to recognize the men and women serving in the military with a special seating area, a catered lunch, and a tribute by Rhonda Vincent who gave a solo performance of God Bless the Soldier followed by an instrumental version of God Bless America by the Rage. After all of that there were not many dry eyes in the audience.
The one glitch in the entire festival (although I’m sure there were probably others that were handled before they became evident to the audience) was the loss of the portable generator that was used to power the stage during the twilight Rhonda Vincent set on Saturday. Instead of allowing the festival to come to a complete halt, Rhonda and the band grabbed their instruments and waded out into the crowd for a real acoustic set, playing several blazing acoustic numbers. Then, as the sun set behind the trees, Rhonda led the crowd in singing Amazing Grace. There were many moist eyes after that performance.
While all of this was going on, the stage crew finally got the power back (less the stage monitors) and the band finished out the set back where they had started. Rhonda Vincent & the Rage demonstrated – once again – their commitment to their fans and the music regardless of the circumstances.
The City of Farmers Branch, Texas and the Bluegrass heritage Foundation deserve a great big Texas thanks for putting on such a great festival. While their has not been confirmation whether or not this will be an annual event, they have definitely set the bar high for the future.
The Bluegrass Heritage Foundation is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to preserve and promote the heritage of bluegrass music in America, with a focus on promoting bluegrass music in Texas. For more information visit www.bluegrassheritage.org.