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New attractions at the Lakes Bluegrass Festival

The eighth annual Lakes Bluegrass Festival offers new events to entertain, educate and reward artists and participants.

Events kicked off Wednesday, Aug. 21, at the Cass County Fairgrounds in Pine River with the second year of the old-time dance, where festival-goers were welcome to dance old-time polkas and waltzes to their heart’s content. The event was free to the public.

Thursday, Aug. 22, brings a new event to the show.

“We’re going to have an organized jam session, though I think that’s maybe an oxymoron,” organizer Tim Roggenkamp said. “We’re going to lead a couple jam sessions on Thursday afternoon, so folks who are new to jamming or looking for something to do before the show starts can come over to the bingo building and have a workshop. We’re going to have a bluegrass jam at 1 o’clock, and at 2 o’clock we’re going to do a country and old-time jam.”

Music starts at 5 p.m. Thursday with Tim and Cindy & Friends and continues with bands like Flatt Lonesome and Dick Kimmel and Company. But that’s not all.

“Also new this year in addition to the organized jam session is going to be the showcase bands,” Roggenkamp said. “Those are newer, younger bands that are given an opportunity to play on the main stage and then, based partially on audience response and our evaluation, one of those showcase bands will be invited back next year for a full band slot.”

The event is not just about listening to bluegrass music, it’s also about learning. This year, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 23-24, there will be instrument workshops at the Cass County Fairgrounds bingo building at no additional charge. Workshops have seating for 20 and standing room for overflow, but if you sign up ahead of time you can reserve a seat in the workshop area. There will be seven workshops each day.

This year will also introduce a Sunday morning, Aug. 25, a capella hymn singing event in the green Don Smith building.

“We’ve always done gospel on Sundays but we’ve never done the hymn sing. So instead of a church service or something, if folks want to come sing some hymns with us we’re going to do that at 9 o’clock and back out on the main stage at 10 o’clock for our gospel show,” Roggenkamp said.

In addition to many musical attractions, Roggenkamp said the event brings great food. His favorite is the barbecue pulled pork. There will even be music at one of the dining pavilions during supper.

Roggenkamp said the event offers people the chance to hear music in its raw form when they wander the campgrounds listening to amateur jam sessions. In addition, this Pine River venue offers concert-goers an opportunity that not all music festivals have.

“They can walk right into town and visit the shops and restaurants. They can also visit the park and go swimming. People like to do that in the mornings before music starts,” Roggenkamp said. “A lot of festivals are out in the middle of nowhere so there’s nothing to do but what’s right there at the campgrounds. So it’s nice at our festival that people can walk right into town.”

The Lakes Bluegrass Festival is a family event. Teens get in for half price, children 12 and younger are free. There is no alcohol or alcohol sales outside of the campgrounds, and dogs, smoking and bikes are not allowed outside of the campgrounds.