MINER -- The SEMO Shrine Club is hoping you will grab the family and some lawn chairs and join them May 19-21 for the Cotton Pickin' Bluegrass Festival.
"This is our first event," said Ken Stallings, bluegrass festival chairman for the SEMO Shrine Club. "Our very first one."
Stallings said he hopes to establish the bluegrass festival as regular "destination event" held twice each year - one in the spring, one in the fall. This year's fall festival will be Oct. 5-8.
How many people will come to town for the festival is anybody's guess but the popularity of bluegrass music is on an upsurge, according to Stallings. Some recent bluegrass festivals held elsewhere have attracted thousands. "We're new to it," said Tim Johnson, director of the SEMO Shrine Club.
The festival will be set up on a 7.5 acre vacant field located next to the Hinton RV Park in Miner - a perfect location as bluegrass is very popular with retirees and other RV enthusiasts, according to Stallings.
Festival organizers have made arrangements for a large tent with room for about 300 in addition to the bandstand. Depending on the attendance, the festival organizers may rent a bigger tent for the next event, Johnson said.
"Be sure to bring some lawn chairs," Stallings said, as there will not be any seating available, although organizers are hoping to get some hay bales.
Music, which Stallings described as "strictly traditional bluegrass," will be provided by Buzzard Run, The Missouri Bluegrass Band, String Circle and Just Us.
The bands will perform from 6-9:45 p.m. on May 19, from noon until 10:45 p.m. on May 20, and will continue at 11 a.m. May 21 following a Sunday service with bluegrass gospel music scheduled for 10 a.m.
Stallings said there is information on each of the bands available at the Web site for those who are new to bluegrass or just want to learn more about who will be playing.
There will also be an "open mic" amateur contest to highlight local talent from 4-6:30 p.m. May 20 and from about noon until the festival's close on May 21. "They can come up and play instead of playing in the basement," Johnson said. There will be a cash prize for the winner, as well.
Musicians who wish to participate in the open mic contest can register with Donna Stallings at the Shrine hospital tent on the festival grounds beginning May 19.
Randal Lee, who hosts bluegrass radio shows, and Bill "Cousin Carl" Anderson will be the announcers for the event.
There will be a variety of food vendors available so you don't have to leave the festival to dine, according to Johnson, as well as arts and crafts vendors to browse during the weekend. The SEMO Health Network will also be offering free health screenings.
While there will be plenty of food, there will be no alcoholic beverages sold or allowed on the festival grounds.
"This is really family entertainment," Stalling said. Those who bring alcohol will be asked to leave.
The cost for the festival is $10 per person on May 19, $15 on May 20, and $10 on May 21, according to Johnson. Weekend passes are also available for $25 per person. "That's for all three days," he said.
After covering the festival's costs, the SEMO Shrine Club will use proceeds to make donations to the Shiner Hospital in St. Louis and other Shriner charities and to provide transportation to area children who go to the Shriner Hospital, according to Stallings.
"We are doing it to help our Shriner kids," he said. "That's what it's all about."
On the Net: http://www.cottonpickinbluegrass.com