Best weekend yet: organizers ‘upped the ante’ for annual bluegrass festival

Bluegrass in the Country is a fundraisier for Manitoulin Special Olympics. This group practiced their square dancing moves for weeks for the showcase at the festival. It was well worth it, judging by the smiles on their faces. -photos by Lori Thompson

PROVIDENCE BAY––Attendance numbers for the 9th annual Bluegrass in the Country in Providence Bay June 8 to 10 are not yet available but by all accounts, it was a fabulous weekend. The annual event is a fundraiser for Manitoulin Special Olympics.

Friday night entertainment kicked off with Maple Grass, followed by Barn Katz and perennial favourites, the Canucky Bluegrass Boys. The music carried on after the official show with a jam session in the barn until the wee hours.

Old Tradition kicked off the Saturday lineup at noon, with a second set by Maple Grass following. The schedule took a bit of rearranging while Down Yonder waited for a set of drums. The Allen Family graciously agreed to step up and fill the gap.

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The Allen Family has deep bluegrass roots and fiddler John Allen has played with Prairie Oyster, the Good Brothers and Tommy Hunter. They chose ‘Orange Blossom Special’ as their encore and entertained the audience with some instrumental riffs from Hockey Night in Canada and The Flintstones.

Barn Katz was up next and was followed by the local band, Down Yonder. Down Yonder was missing a few longtime members, having lost Glen McDougall suddenly in the previous year and with Doug Hore unable to make the show.

Glen McDougall was “a great influence on this show,” said emcee ‘Brother John’ Featherstone. “He would stay in the background and give me all the credit but he was a great help to me. He was always insisting that we get The Beckett Family for this show. This was going to be his glorious show.”

William Mandigo, a former co-worker of Mr. McDougall’s at Shaw Farm Supply offered an emotional tribute before Mr. McDougall’s family took the stage. His daughter Sherri spoke on behalf of the family. “The family is honoured the bluegrass committee has decided to pay tribute to a great husband, loving father, caring brother and respected man of music. As you all know, my father was a man that loved music. Music was his life. If someone asked dad to play in a show it was always where when and what time. The calls were made and it was set. Music was going to be played without missing a beat. On behalf of the McDougall family we would like to thank everyone who enjoys Dad’s music from near and far.”

She thanked Mr. Featherstone for all the hard work and dedication to the event. “We also would like to say a big congratulations to this man (Jeff Pyette) who has been nominated for the Northern Ontario Country Music Hall of Fame. It was Dad’s doing to get Jeff in there, so congratulations, Jeff.”

Debbie Robinson of Down Yonder also remembered Mr. McDougall. “It’s an awesome honour to be here to play at this wonderful festival and for the cause. We’re going to start with one of his favourite songs and then play songs that Glen played over the years.”

Another local, Robbie Shawana, followed Down Yonder. Mr. Shawana always sings with a smile and has a talent for getting folks up dancing. He kept playing for the Special Olympian square dancers. Fred Hunter did the calling. The dancers had practiced very hard and provided a lively spectacle.

Three generations of The Beckett Family have entertained audiences at fairs, dances, fundraisers and festivals across Ontario. They brought patriarch, Grandpa Stan, a well-respected fiddler from the Owen Sound area, onto the stage for some old-fashioned fiddling. Lead vocalist Linsey shared, “Grandpa Stan’s the reason we’re all fiddle players.  We’re always happy when we get to share the stage with him.” The Beckett Family ended their set with a rendition of ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia,’ very powerfully sung by Linsey.

Lindley Creek was up next. Bluegrass in the Country was Lindley Creek’s first stop on a Canadian tour. They are an acoustic family band playing traditional bluegrass and gospel with beautiful harmonies, amazing instrumental interludes and original songwriting. Every song had a story behind it and the Greer family just happen to be very good storytellers. They received a standing ovation.

Canucky Bluegrass Boys were called on to round out the evening. They describe themselves as a “hard driving Canadian bluegrass band delivering high energy traditional sound,” and have become a fan favourite at the festival. A highlight of their set was a new original song written as a tribute to veterans on Remembrance Day. They offered another tribute to miners working underground. Bassist Matt Naveau explained the song came from a dream of his father.

The Saturday night jam session carried on late into the night.

Sunday was an all gospel music day, featuring sets by The Allen Family Reunion, The Beckett Family and Lindley Creek.