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Bluegrass bands, fans descend on Pine River

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Whether singing, strumming or listening, bluegrass fans filled the Cass County Fairgrounds in Pine River for the Lakes Bluegrass Festival Aug. 21-25.

In all, 15 bands performed 40 shows, and the festival also featured jam sessions and workshops.

Ken and Renie Parpart, who attended the festival, said they fell in love over bluegrass. Ken played his future wife an 8-track of Flatt and Scruggs.

“He fell in love because I knew who they are,” Renie said with a smile.

The two said they travel all over to see bluegrass shows. The Pine River festival was their third in three weeks. They enjoy the Lakes Bluegrass Festival because “Tim and Cindy (Roggenkamp, festival coordinators) really know how to get the big bands.”

The Parparts said they often know many other bluegrass fans camping at festivals. Festivals may be the only time they see those friends, but they still enjoy the camaraderie of the crowd.

Two of those friends are Tony and Barbie Andreason, who have written 17 songs together. Tony writes the melody and Barbie writes lyrics, or cleans up Tony’s.

Tony may be most well-known for his spot in The Trashmen, a rock ‘n’ roll band known for the song “Surfin’ Bird (Bird is the Word).” In addition to his continued tours with The Trashmen, he plays for the Platte Valley Boys, a bluegrass band performing at the festival.

“I always loved bluegrass,” Tony said. “My first record was bluegrass.”

Tony got his start on a ukulele he inherited from his aunt. He was self-taught, but music ran in the family, as his father was in Vaudeville.

Tony said rock ‘n’ roll is where the money is, as few bluegrass fans reach widespread fame, but he still loves bluegrass.

“The crowds are like a family,” he said.

He enjoyed the Pine River festival because it was easy to get around, and he said of Pine River, “It’s a beautiful little town.”

Numerous other bands performed at the festival, including several bands made up of families. While the bluegrass genre may be considered “old time” music, several young bands performing at the festival showed bluegrass has become a serious outlet for young musicians and especially families.

Award-winning Flatt Lonesome includes three siblings: Kelsi Robertson Harigill, Charli Robertson and Buddy Robertson. Showcase band Carver Creek is made up of the Monsen family from Carver, Minn., with ages ranging from 6 to 18.

Jim Monsen, the 6-year-old, is in the band as much for his jokes and adorableness as anything else.

“It’s pretty common to have a little kid be cute. Audiences really like that,” said 18-year-old banjo player Tom Monsen.

It’s even common for family members to have their own separate bands. Bluegrass Hall of Fame band Dick Kimmel & Co. played at the festival while Ian Kimmel, who sometimes performs with his father’s band, performed at the show with his own band, Barton’s Hollow.

The festival also featured a showcase band competition among four bands. The winner is invited back to next year’s festival as a headlining band. This year’s winner was the Froemming Family.

In all, around 3,000-4,000 musicians and spectators came to Pine River for the festival, filling 142 of the 150 campsites available. That number is up from the 90 campsites used in the 2012 festival. Pine River Chamber of Commerce Director John Wetrosky said the event would not have been possible without volunteers, who staffed the entire event.