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Shady Grove organizers ready for upcoming Sundre bluegrass music festival

Although running annually for more than 30 years, outdoor concert returning to Sundre Rodeo Grounds for the fifth time

SUNDRE – Bluegrass music fans better break out their coziest lawn chairs and maybe even tune up their preferred stringed instrument for a jam session.

The Shady Grove Bluegrass Music Festival is set to return to town for the fifth time this coming July 12-14 at the Sundre Pro Rodeo grounds.

“Things are looking good,” said Eric Holt, event director and president of the Foothills Bluegrass Music Society, which has organized the event for 30-plus years, the last five of which have been in Sundre.

“We’ve got a reasonable amount of ticket sales,” said Holt, adding the weekend’s itinerary format will be similar to the past few years.

There will of course be the main nighttime performance on Friday as well as a Saturday afternoon show followed by another that night with the final round of official performers taking to the stage on Sunday afternoon.    

There will also be a music workshop for youths on Saturday morning, and after a break for dinner that afternoon that group will also go under the spotlight to show off a bit of what they’ve learned.

And throughout the weekend in between shows, there will also be open jams as well as facilitated jams, he said.

“Pretty much any time from Friday night until Sunday if you walk around the campground, you’ll find groups of people jamming,” he said. “That’s one of the things that people go to bluegrass festivals for.”

So there will be a couple of sites with tents designated specifically for jamming during certain times, he said.

“Facilitated jam means that in those tents, we’ll have somebody leading the jam” to start things off and get them going, he said.

“It’s not as much formal as it is just kind of more of an icebreaker” to provide people who are interested with a no-pressure opportunity to get more musically involved and learn how to play a tune, he explained.

“We’re not putting you on the spot as a new player to come in and know a bunch of tunes.”

On Sunday, an open mic gospel hour will lead up to the afternoon concert, he said.

With a fairly lengthy list of performers on the lineup, Holt said among the main headliners is a band known as Jake Vaadeland & the Sturgeon River Boys.  

“He was very popular last year, and so we had him back this year,” said Holt, adding the band has since last year’s performance in Sundre gone onto tour in Europe and the U.S. with plans to appear on the Coca Cola Stage at this year’s Calgary Stampede.

“They’re getting to be a big deal,” he said.

Additionally, a performance by a well-renowned musician best known in Western Canada for his fine fiddle-playing skills is also on the docket, he said, referring to Calvin Vollrath.

“Beyond that, the two feature bands from the U.S. are Rock Hearts and Blue Canyon Boys, who were here a couple of years ago,” said Holt.

The organizers remain pleased with their new home after relocating to the Sundre Pro Rodeo grounds from a Nanton-area farm, and have no plans to look for any alternative venues any time soon.

“We just want to get a little bigger and better,” he said. “As the years go by, we’re getting more interest from the people in town. We’re kind of hoping to build on that.”

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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