The Morning Sun

Chilly weather and a few sprinkles couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of bluegrass players and those who love the music as the first Cow Creek Bluegrass Festival got underway with a Hootenanny Friday evening.

"Hootenanny is a Scottish word that means ‘celebration,’" said Tim Anderson, the coordinator of the festival, as he took a break from picking along with other musicians, including bands set to perform tomorrow and local musicians.

The event was planned in the downtown area to let local artists in on the fun and to give anyone in town early for the festival something to come out and enjoy the night before, and this was part of Anderson’s original vision for the festival, which began to form as he enjoyed last year’s SEK Art Fest.

"Man, it would be great if we could do this with bluegrass - have the festival up and down Broadway and in Lincoln Park," Anderson said.

He said he inquired about the idea with the City of Pittsburg and, with the help of individuals including Kim Vogel and Jeff Wilbert, the dream began to take form and that form became a reality as Anderson celebrated in the Hootenanny.

"It was a way to draw the crowd in," he said of Friday’s activity adding, "The local artists needed something to do other than just watch the bands."

Anderson said in the bluegrass community, many fans are players as well as audience members, and might enjoy playing along and getting to know each other before the larger festival gets under way.

"They get to play with each other and see each other at the festival, and it makes it more connected than before," he said.

That also helps set the atmosphere for the festival, which Anderson said is intended to have the feel of a traditional afternoon on the back porch listening to music.

"I wanted a homey atmosphere and that old-fashioned, old-time feel," Anderson said.

As he has coordinated the festival, which will take place at Lincoln Park and the J.J. Richards Band Dome today, he also has brought in vendors and displays that will add to that sense, including George Parson and a horse-drawn wagon, knifesmith Phil Evans, who will be forging a knife at the event, a jam workshop led by Martha Haehl, banjo building by Doug Crane, luthier demonstrations by Steve Mason and Jim Keller and his award-winning taxidermy display.

These will begin first thing this morning and offer family-style entertainment leading up to the noon performance by local band Deadeye, which kicks off the festival.

Following Deadeye will be Martha Haehl from 1:30-2:30, Open Range from 3-4, Kansas Heart from 4:30-5:30, Scenic Roots from 6-7, MAW from 7:30-8:30 and Alferd Packer Memorial String Band from 9-10.

Anderson said he considered cost, popularity, proximity and more when inviting bands to perform.

"I wanted to make sure they were popular, well-known, affordable and available," he said.

Anderson said his dream for the festival is to make Pittsburg, which is surrounded by many large communities within a three-hour radius, a place with a draw of its own.

"If we want to see a show, we have to go out, so it’s our turn to draw people to us," he said, adding that the resurgence of folk art and the addition of the Center for the Arts at Pittsburg State University also make this a prime time and location for new growth.