Good Partners and Good Music – Bluegrass

I just completed my third year of running sound at the Appalachian Festival. The Festival is a three-day event held at Cincinnati’s Coney Island. I’ve had the opportunity to mix sound for some great bluegrass and Appalachian concerts in the last three years. Reflecting back after a month or so, I began wondering: why Cincinnati and bluegrass music? I know bluegrass has a strong presence in the area. I also wondered, what is the purpose of the Appalachian Festival? With this in mind I started to do some investigation….

First, let me tell you about this year’s Appalachian Festival. Willis Music is proud to sponsor it for the 4th straight year, and along with Ric Hopkins from The Sound Workshop, I have run sound for the last 3 years. There are two main stages of the festival, where we use state of the art equipment like QSC K Series speakers and Presonus mixers. We can set delays and balance the sound so it is pleasing to listen to, while being able to hear the clarity needed for bluegrass music.

The Appalachian Festival is always on Mother’s Day Weekend and runs for three days. Music goes from 10 in the morning until 9 at night (groups play a 1-hour show with 15-minute breaks for setup). As you can see, there is a ton of music for people to enjoy. Some of the groups that played this year are: Rabbit Hash String Band, Sternwheelers, Pops & Patriots (Big Band Swing), Missy Werner, Appalachian Grass, P’s in a Pod, Good’le Boys, Retread Bluegrass Band, Wayfarers, NightFlyer, Dry Mill Road, Black Water, Steve Bonafel, Haddix Family Gospel, Evan Lanier & Bluegrass Express, Ma Crow & The Lady Slippers, and Oberst & Dowel. The last show on Sunday is always a real treat – the Bluegrass All Stars play as the house band, and all the other groups come back in a festival review concert.

Besides music, there is a living history section with Indians and Mountain people that teach on the old ways. There are lots of craft booths to pick up the perfect Mother’s Day present. Story tellers tell great stories with an Appalachian flair. And let’s not forget about some amazing food.

One story teller that is a treat to listen to (and you will walk away scratching your head) is Uncle Mike Carr. He told me a story that went like this:
A man was sitting at a picnic table eating his lunch. Sitting on the ground was a dog. A little boy walked up and ask “Mister is your dog friendly?” and the man replied, “Yes my dog is very friendly!”. The little boy reached his hand out to pet the dog and the dog growled and snapped at the boy almost biting him. As the little boy jerked his hand back he spouted, “Mister, I thought your dog was friendly!”. The man replied, “ He is friendly, but that ain’t my dog!”.

So what is the Appalachian Festival all about? It is about supporting the people from Appalachia. They raise money from the festival that then gets returned in the form of grants to help schools, community centers and artist studios throughout Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. So far, the Festival has raised $150,000 for the Appalachian Community Development Association (ACDA), which administers these grants. Willis Music is grateful to be a part of keeping the Appalachian culture healthy.

Again, this is a great cause to keep history alive. If you are not usually a bluegrass listener, give it a try!  I have found a ton of bluegrass music that I thoroughly enjoy and some that are even inspiring. Here are a couple of local artists with inspiring songs:
One-Iota with Steve Bonafel – “Last Parade from Anthem” from Of A Family Tree
The Moron Brothers – “Story Of A Song” from More On The Morons album

Another great local artist that I have became very fond of is The Missy Werner Band. I have mixed sound for them at least 8 times, own 3 of their albums, and just enjoy the sound of Missy’s voice. If you are at a show that I am mixing, you will hear me use one of her albums during set-up.

Visit the Appalachian Festival website and help keep bluegrass music alive. Without bluegrass, where would music be today? As Henry Winkler says in the movie Here Comes The Boom, “Without music, life would be a mistake!”

Keep Playing,
Bill Phipps

I asked the president of the ACDA to tell us a little more about the Appalachian Festival, and here is what he wrote:

ACDA & Willis Music

The Appalachian Community Development Association formed a partnership with Willis Music to enhance the music at the Appalachian Festival on Mother’s Day weekend each year at Old Coney Island. By providing excellent PA equipment for the music and Storytelling venues, the patrons have come to expect the great value added sound provided by Willis Music.

The ACDA, a 501-3c was formed over 46 years ago by the Junior League of Cincinnati for the purpose of helping Appalachians and their descendants adjust to the urban life, far from the hills of Appalachia. It is hard to believe that after all these years the need for this help is still needed in urban as well as rural communities both near and far from Cincinnati. Recently the board of ACDA, an all volunteer staff, narrowed the focus to accommodate other 501-3c groups who provide food or education directly to those in our Appalachian region who desperately need help.

Our Festival itself works very hard to provide a learning environment through entertaining events, displays, music, storytelling, crafts, demonstrations and living history. The story of Appalachia and its legacy in our region must be told and remembered. The Festival is the sole income provider for the ACDA. Without the participation from our friends such as Willis Music, Kroger, Messer Construction, Midwest Polaris, Burger Farm and Garden, and Edudoc, our funds would be very small indeed.

Please know that patronizing Willis Music assures this valuable participation will go on for years to come. We thank the management and staff at Willis Music for their time and effort at helping others in our Appalachian Community.

Thank you again,
Ron Simmons
President, ACDA

Visit the Appalachian Festival website to sign up for a grant, and learn more about the festival itself.

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