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Old-time tunes to fill the air

Annual Stratford Bluegrass Festival will kick off Friday

July 8, 2012
By JOE SUTTER, , Messenger News

STRATFORD - Traditional music from an earlier time will be featured this weekend in Stratford.

Seven bluegrass and country bands will be featured in the 28th annual Stratford Bluegrass Festival Friday, Saturday, and July 15 at the Stratford City Park.

"It all started with a group of four or five people back then, that were kind of picking and just into that kind of music," said festival coordinator Aaron Bradley. "There hasn't been a year it's been missed."

Bradley said 300 to 400 people from all over the state would attend the festival's three shows, one on Friday and two on Saturday, as well as the gospel music time on Sunday.

"We're hoping for a big crowd this year," he said. "We've got a real big group coming on Saturday from Georgia. They're nationally known; they've won some international bluegrass awards and male vocalist of the year, so it will be a real good show."

That group is Russell Moore and III Tyme Out.

Fact Box

If you go:

What: 28th annual Stratford Bluegrass Festival

When: Friday, Saturday and July 15

Where: Stratford City Park

Show Times: Friday 6:30 p.m.; Saturday 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.; Sunday noon, gospel music

Other events: Saturday - parade, 10:30 a.m.; Sugar Creek Cloggers, 6 p.m.; Sunday - community church service, 10:30 a.m.

Admission: Friday $15; Saturday all day $20, evening only $15; July 15, freewill donation. Weekend pass $30, comes with free slice of pie. Children under age 14 are admitted free.

Presented by: Stratford Stride. For more information call Aaron Bradley at 835-0050 or email

Appearing on Friday will be Terry Smith, of Tennessee.

"He's more old-time country," Bradley said.

Returning from last year, the Harper Family from Missouri will play Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Other bands are from Iowa and will appear all three days.

The event will be in the park, where Bradley said there is plenty of shade. Those attending should bring lawn chairs - and an appetite.

"Normally we have bands perform in the gazebo, but this year we are bringing in a portable stage since we have the bigger band," he said. "There are two shelter houses; the north one will be serving food all day, and the south shelter will have a group of cloggers on Saturday."

This is the fifth or sixth year that Bradley's been in charge.

He was only 2 years old when the festival started, and he's only been in town since 2001, but he said the festival has grown on him. Now, he works year-round to promote it.

"It takes all year to go through and advertise and book and all that, but I love it, so it's worth it."

In addition to watching the bands perform, Bradley said there's a fun atmosphere at the whole event.

"Anybody who wants to bring an instrument, there's usually jamming that goes on the whole weekend during the festival. People are out by campers picking, and after the show at night, there's usually two or three groups that are out playing too."

The members of the band White Fox appreciate that atmosphere. They've been playing at the annual festival on and off for years. In fact they helped get the festival started to begin with.

One of the band's guitarists, Dave Kelley, said he learned bluegrass when he was learning guitar, right after high school. He and Jerry Fergeson started jamming together in the late 1970s or early '80s, and things just went from there.

"I can't seem to get rid of him," Kelley said.

Kelley wrote many of the band's songs which it will play at the festival. Out of those, Kelley said his favorite was a gospel song, "I Shall Hear the Angels Sing."

"It's kind of about when death comes to us, that's not the end, there's more beyond that," he said.

Mandolin player and vocalist Paula Abbas said, like the others, she is looking forward to hearing the professional bands.

"Besides (that), I just love all the people and the relaxed atmosphere; they've got good food and good music," said Abbas. "It's the way things used to be in a slower time. It's not so hustle-bustle, it's taking a step backwards into a more peaceful time."



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