Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

June 9, 2011

Bands tuning up for Bluegrass Festival

Every summer, 107-year-old Ethan Shelton gets on-stage and plays his ukulele for the crowds at the Wakarusa Bluegrass Festival.

“He is very active in the Bluegrass community,” Ellie Tom, treasurer of the Wakarusa Bluegrass Festival board of directors said.  “He is our oldest fan — he lives, eats and breathes bluegrass. He is very sharp. Very, very sharp.”

Bluegrass fans of all ages will gather this weekend, June 10-12, for this year’s Wakarusa Bluegrass Festival, which will feature the Tommy Webb Band, from eastern Kentucky, and several local Bluegrass groups. It will take place at 66425 Ind. 19 South, Wakarusa.

“Each band has a very unique style, and we look for diversity in the styles and their presentations,” Tom said. “We don’t want all gospel, we don’t want all secular. Just a nice mix.”

The festival kicks-off Friday night at 6 with a free open jam session. All bluegrass musicians are welcomed to show off their skills.

“On Friday night, more youth will be there, because they can play for free,” Tom said. “We have kids that are 10 and 12 that play — their dads have taught them to play or whatever.”

While Friday night’s activities are free, Saturday features 12 hours of concert music, starting at 10 a.m., and costs $15 at the door. Children under age 12 and veterans with identification cards will be admitted for free.

Saturday’s events will feature the Tommy Webb Band, the Wasepi Bluegrass Gospel Singers, Echo Valley Bluegrass Band, Schlitz Creek Bluegrass Band, Conley-Schmidt and First Love, and Highway Home Bluegrass Band. Each band will play twice.

“We really promote the traditional Bluegrass more than the contemporary,” Tom said. “Our headline band (Tommy Webb Band) is from the mountains of Kentucky. He is very traditional and has a very unique sound.”

The festival will wind down Sunday morning with a bluegrass gospel service and message at 10 a.m., delivered by Dwaine Swartzentruber, assistant pastor at Elkhart Community Baptist Church.  

The Wakarusa Bluegrass Festival was started by Ed Tom and the late Mel Schrock in 2005, and has grown to attract between 300 and 700 guests each year. It is the only annual outdoor Bluegrass festival in Elkhart County, and is a non-profit organization.

Two offerings will be taken during the festival, with proceeds going to the Goshen Boys and Girls Club, the Salvation Army’s efforts toward tornado disaster relief and the Family Christian Development Center in Nappanee.

Restrooms and food vendors will be available, as well as primitive camping for $5 per night. Guests are encouraged to take blankets and lawn chairs. For more information, visit www.wakarusabluegrassfestival.com.

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