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What Is a Bluegrass Festival?

By C. Webb
Updated May 23, 2024
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A bluegrass festival brings the public and bluegrass singers together. The festival usually lasts a day, a weekend, or a week. Such festivals can be found worldwide, but are most prevalent in the Southern portion of the United States. In addition to bluegrass artist performances, a bluegrass festival typically offers food, crafts, and other items for sale. Bluegrass refers to the style of music played at the festival.

The bluegrass music genre originated in the US and is a blend of many different music cultures. Scottish, Welsh, English, and Irish elements are laced throughout the genre. African-American culture brought a jazz sound to bluegrass. The music now has a worldwide audience, with fans on every continent.

Planning a bluegrass festival starts months before the event. A site is located and secured. Funding for the event begins and often involves donations from organizations and companies wishing to promote bluegrass music. Bluegrass singers are invited to attend and perform. The festival is advertised to the public.

A bluegrass festival is usually held outside during the warm season. Food vendors set up around the festival or in a nearby location. Festival attendees dress in casual attire. Sometimes they dress in period pieces denoting bluegrass roots.

During a bluegrass festival, performers are scheduled throughout the day and evening. Most bluegrass festivals are family-friendly events. Children can often be seen playing on the festival lawn while parents sit on blankets enjoying the music. Grills are sometimes brought along, and families create picnic lunches during the show.

Bluegrass festivals incorporate well-known as well as up-and-coming performers. The late Bill Monroe, often called the father of bluegrass, kick-started the genre in the 1940s with a band called The Blue Grass Boys. This group is often credited with inventing the now-customary bluegrass style of lightning-fast tempos, complicated lyrics, and an array of instruments including fiddles, mandolins, banjos, and guitars. All bluegrass festivals are recognizable due to these elements running through the performances.

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