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National Old Time Music Festival, LeMars, Iowa - 26 August

Event Date: Aug. 26-Sept. 1, 2013

National Old Time Music Festival, LeMars, Iowa, Begins August 26th

The annual National Old-Time Acoustic Country-Bluegrass-Folk Music Festival and Pioneer Exposition of Rural Lifestyle, has been going non-stop for 38 years. The founder of it, and still the Director, is Bob Everhart, a recording artist for the Smithsonian Institution.

Super-star Patti Page came out of retirement in 2010 to support the event.

LeMars, Iowa (August 19, 2013) - LeMars, Iowa, is known as the world's largest ice cream factory, home of Blue Bunny Ice Cream.  However for one week, August 26 through September 1, 2013, LeMars becomes the world's largest old-time music gathering. 

The annual National Old-Time Acoustic Country-Bluegrass-Folk Music Festival and Pioneer Exposition of Rural Lifestyle, has been going non-stop for 38 years. The founder of it, and still the Director, is Bob Everhart, a recording artist for the Smithsonian Institution.  "We wanted to make an affordable festival so that anyone interested in the beautiful simplicity of old-time American music could attend," he said. This concept has led the festival to a situation where they now have over 650 performers of some of America's most beautiful old time music. 

To accommodate that many singers, pickers, song writers, and performers there are ten stages running from 9am to midnight every day for seven days.  And, it's not just the unknowns that come from around the world to participate.  Super stars come to support this effort at saving some of America's most popular traditional music.  It shocked the promoters when the incredible super-star Patti Page came out of retirement in 2010 to support the event.  It was her last appearance, she passed away in 2011.  She sang the 'Tennessee Waltz' and 'Doggie in The Window.' 

According to the promoters, this year is no exception.  Barbara Fairchild, who recorded "The Teddy Bear," will be one of their major attractions.  Roy Morris, a studio musician and producer from Branson, Missouri, will also be attending, along with Joanne Cash the younger sister of Johnny Cash, LuLu Roman from Hee Haw, who now sings gospel music, Terry Smith, who wrote "The Far Side Banks of Jordan" for Johnny and June Carter Cash, Dr. Harry Yates the founder of Nashville's Cowboy Church and host of a radio program heard around the world, Roger Tibbs, the most popular country singer and yodeler from New Zealand, Greta Elkin, the Queen of Country Music from Ireland, and the one and only master of the honky-tonk piano, Mickey Gilley, direct from his theater in Branson, all are coming to a festival in the middle of a corn field in Iowa. They will be supporting the efforts of keeping the 'real-deal' country music alive in the USA and to also be inducted into America's Country Music Hall of Fame, an honor coming directly from the rural people of America.

According to Everhart, "Of the ten stages we have, one is a 'workshop' building.  We ask our pros to share their knowledge with beginners and those eager to learn, it lasts an entire week, and it's free.  We are also very fortunate to have the Rural Roots Music Commission give their "CD of the Year" awards away at this event. This year is really loaded with another act from New Zealand, Annette Hawkins and Kim Coledo receiving "International Classic Country Music CD of the Year."  Add to that about 25 other winners, including Gordon Wilcox from Canada, Allen Karl from Maryland, Cindy Hill from Kentucky, Tex & Mary Schutz from Texas, Jackson String Band from Florida, Sarah Davison from Tennessee, David Wilburn from Virgina, and his son Ron Wilburne from California (used to sing with the New Christie Minstrels), and you begin to see what a remarkable event this really is. 

Another of the Hall of Fame inductees, is Boxcar Willie Jr.  The first Boxcar Willie passed away in 1996, but his son is keeping the tradition and the music alive." The Plymouth County Fairgrounds, where the event is held, is a flat surface location that accommodates up to 450 RV campers, most of them able to get an electrical hook-up. 

Food on the grounds is also quite different than other event of this nature.  According to Everhart, "We want the very best we can get food wise at our festival.  Seven days is a long time to be at one location, so we asked the Culver's Restaurant if they would move their menu to our location.  That means the standard hamburger-cheeseburger done in the Culver's way is more than adequately represented.  We also have Toby's Tailgater which is a char-broiled steak menu.  They also broil chicken, fish, pork, and just about anything you want, right on the grounds.  There are a number of beverages, including lemonade, but we do not allow liquor or illicit drugs of any kind.  This event is a 'high' from the music, not imitations." 

There are also contests advertised.  Everything from banjos to saws.  Even clog dancing in contest form, however if you want to 'dance' in the many different ways the upper Midwest has to offer, you can polka on a Monday and attend a cowboy dance on a Saturday and just about everything else in between.  Even more interesting to some folks is the Tipi Village set up right next to the rest of the activities.  "The Tipi Village is set up in what looks like an old ghost town," Everhart said.  "It actually is a pioneer village which is used during the county fair, but when we are there the old eerie buildings are locked up. Very deserted looking.  We have everything from lean-to tents to tipis in the village.  Even free stew if you're interested in that kind of life style."

It's a celebration of America's musical heritage, and there are many kinds of music involved.  Old-time country, hillbilly, bluegrass, mountain music, ragtime, cowboy & western, traditional, folk, classic country, western swing, even polka music.  There's also a lot of jamming.  A 'jam' at this event is not a jar of berry juice to put on toast.  A 'jam' is a gathering of music makers who don't even know each other.  They join in a circle, with their instruments.  Someone strikes up a song and they all start playing together.  It's a remarkable extension of keeping the music of down-home rural folks alive and well. 

According to Everhart, "We're trying to keep all those terrific old-time musical styles alive.  We make a focus on bluegrass, though it's harder and harder to get organized bluegrass bands to participate, still, we are members of the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America, and we're members of the International Bluegrass Music Association.  All of that helps us keep the music welcome, alive, and on display." 

Everhart, along with his wife Sheila, record for the Smithsonian Institution, with six albums available.  They are also the curators of the Pioneer Music Museum in Anita, Iowa, where they live, as well as a performance center called the Oak Tree. 

More information about the festival is available at their website 


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