Bluegrass fest keeps toes a’ tappin’


Herald Writer

DARRINGTON – There was plenty of "pickin’ and grinnin’" going on Saturday at the Darrington Bluegrass Festival.

Whether they came for the music, scenery or sun, few of the several hundred people gathered at the Darrington Music Park were disappointed. As five- or six-piece bands played continuously on a stage before a small log cabin and flanked by speakers on huge tree stumps, sun-soaked fans lounged in lawn chairs or blankets in the grass or on the concrete steps of the semicircular band shell.

Some gabbed, some read, some sunbathed, but the majority tapped their toes to bluegrass bands, mainly from throughout the Northwest. Toddlers frolicked before the stage, and RV’ers barbecued at campsites under tall trees that rimmed the band shell.

"I love bluegrass," said Carolyn Caddell of Lake Stevens, adding that she and her husband have come almost every year since the festival started 24 years ago.

"And I drag him along," she said, pointing to her husband, Don, who sat in a lawn chair next to her. "I was born and raised with bluegrass music" Caddell said. "My granddaddy is from West Virginia, so I’ve got it in my blood."

When Don retired three years ago, the couple began bringing their RV up on the Tuesday or Wednesday before the concert so they could camp and catch some impromptu jam sessions among the campers.

"The people are super nice," Don said. "And the cleanest bunch I’ve ever seen anywhere. After this is over, you don’t even find a half-piece of paper on the ground. It’s a great environment."

Mickey McMitchell of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, calls himself and his wife, Heather, "bluegrass groupies." The retired couple ramble from one bluegrass festival to another throughout the summer – from the Northwest to Arizona. "We’d go to all of them if we could," Mickey said.

This was their first Darrington festival though. "We’d heard nothing but good news about it," Mickey said, "and it’s exceeded everything we’ve heard about it." Of all the festivals the couple have been to, the scenery at Darrington is the most spectacular, Mickey said. He also said Country Current, a featured bluegrass and country band of the U.S. Navy, was "fabulous."

Heather said: "We phoned some friends back home and told them to come down. Maybe they’ll be here tomorrow."

John and Sharon Newsom of Seattle have a cabin about four miles down the road from the music park but were also new to the Darrington festival.

"This is absolutely the best," said Sharon, as she and her husband sat in the grass in the shade. "It’s a gorgeous environment and great music."

John said he likes bluegrass music because "it puts a smile on my face." And Sharon added: "and a tap to your toes."

John, a technical director of a school district in Seattle, said the festival was the perfect escape from his job and his city lifestyle. "It’s like someone’s turned back the clock (here)," John said.

"We just don’t have the right gear: a lawn chair, a cooler, suntan oil," John said. "Next time we’ll have to do a trip to REI (first)."

Their 19-year-old daughter, who was at the festival with them, had the right idea, Sharon said. "She went into Darrington and bought a cowboy hat."

The Darrington Bluegrass Festival continues today, with a church service and gospel music at 8 a.m., an open mike from 9 a.m. to noon, concert from 1-5:30 p.m. and grand finale from 5:30-6 p.m. The Navy’s Country Current plays at 4 p.m., and the other headliner, The Lonesome River Band from Tennessee, plays at 3 p.m.

The park is three miles west of Darrington on Highway 530. Tickets for Sunday are $10; children 12 and younger accompanied by an adult are free.

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