Months ago, organizers of the Fairview Bluegrass Festival couldn’t have known how ideal the weather would be when the day arrived — but Saturday turned out to be a day made for shade-tree picking.
This year’s festival, which has grown each of the ten years it’s been in existence, saw light breezes, temperatures in the low 80s and just enough sun to cast a shadow beneath the old oak tree at Fairview’s town park, where musicians took their turns in the informal jam session that lasted throughout the afternoon.
The festival’s well-established now, but its beginnings were less than auspicious. Lifelong Fairview resident Betty Howard said she started the event a decade ago, when she approached the city council with a cherished bluegrass tape recording.
“This is my tenth one now — I started it all,” said Howard. “Back then, I went to the mayor and council and asked them to start a bluegrass festival — well, they didn’t know what bluegrass was. So I go home, and get a tape of Steve Helton, and I told them to carry that home and play it. So they did, and they voted to go ahead and have it that year. Since that, I’ve just booked ‘em.”
The festival starts informally each year, with the shade-tree circle expanding and contracting as folks stream in and out with their guitars, mandolins, banjos and fiddles. Then the stage show begins, featuring regional bluegrass staples like Azalea Ridge Revival, the Possum Pickers, and Steve Helton & the Flint River Boys.
At 5 p.m., there’s a singing. That can last a while. “They’ll be here on into the night,” said Howard. “Some of them, that’s what they really come for.”
Verbon Vandiver brought his C.F. Martin guitar from Colbert County for the picking.
“I just came over,” said Vandiver. “I’m in a group, but [today] we just all get together for the day just to jam. You just sit down and start playing, whether you know everybody or not.”
That kind of easy camaraderie is a big part of the appeal of bluegrass music, and it’s a big reason the festival’s popularity swells with each passing year.
“This is what this bluegrass thing is all about — people getting together and jamming,” said James Bradford of Spring Hill. “You don’t have to know everybody, because when you sit down and jump in and start playing, everybody knows the tune.”
* Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.