The Withlacoochee River Bluegrass Festival in Dunnellon, FL is going strong, based on this year’s spring event which was the most heavily attended since being brought back from inactivity in 2013.
Things got started in 1980 when Lonnie and Peggy Knight first held the festival on their family property along the the Withlacoochee River. It became a popular destination for bluegrass fans in central and western Florida until Lonnie’s death in 2006. His grandkids held another festival in ’07, but it wasn’t the same without Lonie and it was discontinued after that year.
Current promoter Dave Elliott of Tin Roof Shack Productions said that the site lay empty and neglected for 7 years, until Peggy decided she wanted to hear music along the river again.
Elliott says it all started with a phone call…
“Peggy contacted us and asked if we could help her get the music back. We had to repair the stage and fix the leaks in the roof, as well as clear the venue as nature was in the process of reclaiming the land. We had our first official festival in March 2013. Now back in full swing we have two festivals a year March and November. This past March by far was our largest and most populated since the return of the festival. People are still asking us ‘Is this the same old Withlacoochee where it used to be?'”
Things have continued at Withlacoochee with a family vibe, with multiple Elliotts and a dedicated team of volunteers keeping things going.
“My Dad (84), my two sisters, my brothers and cousins, and my uncle all work the show. We have another 15 friends that also volunteer. We are truly blessed to be able to work and enjoy the music and people together as a family operation.”
Thanks to the Tin Roof team for also sending along these photos from the 2017 March festival.