Larry Sparks at the 2018 Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass Festival – photo by Dale Cahill
Just before the final act on Sunday at the 2018 Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass Festival, promoter Michael Mulligan made a surprise announcement. There will be a festival next year and Rhonda Vincent has already been booked. The long running event had a few years since 1979 when there was no festival, founded and run by Mike’s mom, Pati Crooker, but after her passing in 2016, Mike agreed to try again in ’18.
This year’s festival met everyone’s expectations and more. The weather was almost unbearably perfect. Camping under the pines or in the fields was a pleasure. Swimming in the ocean in Maine in Sept. was the perfect way to stay cool during the mid-day Sun. Mike and his crew ran a smooth operation and the line up this year offered something for just about everyone, even a few newgrass acts.
Folks poured into the camping ground starting on Monday and picking got off to a robust start. The chairs in the stage area reached back 30 or so rows by Wednesday. The lineup included big names like The Lonesome River Band, Earls of Leicester, Sierra Hull, Sister Sadie, Balsam Range, Larry Sparks, The Gibson Brothers, and one of our favorites, Hot Rize with a 40th anniversary performance. Red Knuckles, Waldo Otto, Wendell Mercantile, and Slade showed up in the middle of the Hot Rize set and everyone agreed that they are sharp dressers and pretty good musicians.
While traditional fans got their dose of straight up bluegrass music with the Earls of Leicester, The Gibson Brothers, and Larry Sparks, Sierra Hull and Justin Moses treated the crowd to Sierra’s new act as a duo, and Twisted Pine (last year’s winner of the Band Contest) added some newgrass to the stage. Congratulations go out to this year’s contest winners Beg, Steal, and Borrow.
Between the workshops, swimming in the Atlantic – which was surprisingly warm – catching up with old friends, and just walking around the scenic campground, this festival gave us an excellent chance to wrap up a busy summer season of bluegrass festivals. Booth Shot Lincoln and Waynesboro were this year most talked about and played songs we heard in the jams. We plan to learn them over the winter so that we can play them up to speed next year. Between the Long Island Crew, the Maine Blue grassers, and pickers from Boston and the Hudson Valley, and of course our buddies from Vermont, we always had a jam to join or to just listen to from the comfort of our campsite. As always, the picking went on well into the wee hours every night. Showers, sleep, and food were snatched between jams and shows.
The Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass Festival is in good hands. Mike, Jen, and Shari, and all their volunteers are ready for next year’s celebration of 40 years of bluegrass music, friends, and Maine seafood. And we all look forward to joining them again.