It’s that time of year again. The days are finally getting longer, and football is coming to its inevitable conclusion with the return of baseball not far behind. One can be forgiven for actually thinking about springtime and all the pleasures it brings. And chief among them is the reappearance of the outdoor bluegrass events we all love.
One of the largest spring festivals is held each year at Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO. The park dedicates the better part of May to Bluegrass and BBQ, a rolling festival with live performances from May 2-27 on site. Visitors can attend the shows at no additional charge above the entrance fee, and there are typically 4-6 acts on stage each day.
During the final weekend, the park hosts their annual KSMU Youth In Bluegrass band contest, where they seek to find the best bluegrass entertainers 21 or younger. The competition is for bands, not single artists, and given the traditions in our music, a good many of the contestants turn out to be family bands.
2019 will be the 18th year for this event, hosted on May 25. A number of past winners have gone on to achieve success in the bluegrass business, in addition to the $1500 prize offered to the top finisher.
The rules are few. Other than parents, all band members must be 21 or younger as of May 25, 2019; only a single microphone can be used on stage; no electric instruments; entries must be received by March 11. There is no fee to submit an application. The complete contest rules and an application form can be found online.
Performers are judged on:
- Instrumental ability (in time, in tune, degree of difficulty) 25%
- Vocal ability (in time, in tune, degree of difficulty) 25%
- Professionalism (wardrobe, showmanship, microphone technique)
- 25% Audience response 25%.
It’s always a fun event, and contestants report that they build lasting relationships with the other young pickers and singers they meet there each year. It’s not uncommon for some groups to compete several years in a row, until they eventually age out.
Contestants receive free park admission on the day of the event.
You can find all the details on the Silver Dollar City web site.