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Tug Hill Bluegrass Festival attracts more people than ever


LOWVILLE — The Tug Hill Bluegrass Festival attracts more and more people every year who love to hear the sounds of Appalachia.

This weekend’s festival at the Maple Ridge Center drew about 1,000 people eager to camp out and listen to local and national acts such as Doyle Lawson, creating a record-breaking year.

“This was our best year ever,” main festival promoter Keith M. Zehr said. “We might even break even this year.”

The festival, organized by the Adirondack Mennonite Camping Association, started eight years ago on more modest terms.

“I don’t know how many people we had then,” he said. “Maybe 125 people.”

Since then, the festival has brought nationally known bluegrass acts and extended the weekend festival to three days.

While such efforts have helped increase the number of visitors, Mr. Zehr said he thinks bluegrass music itself is what attracts people. This year, people came from Canada and as far south as North Carolina.

“It’s kind of a niche music that if you have a taste for it and a preference for it, you’ll drive a long way for it,” he said.

Bluegrass festivals also have a reputation for being family-friendly, he said.

On Father’s Day, more than 600 people crowded under two white tents to listen to Lost Time and the Atkinson Family Band perform bluegrass gospel reminiscent of the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Sunday has always been the free festival day.

The Spinney Brothers from Nova Scotia closed the day’s show.

“We came last night and tonight,” said Kathy H. Farney, Croghan. “We’ve come three or four times in the eight years they’ve had it. It gets bigger and better every year.”

Not everyone who came regularly listens to bluegrass, however.

“This is our first (trip) ever,” said Jeffrey E. Lyndaker, Croghan. “We talked about coming for years and we never have, so we came this year.”

His mother leaned over.

“This is my kind of music,” Marilyn I. Lyndaker said, smiling.

Heather L. Bush, Albany, also came to the festival with family.

“My grandmother used to come with my grandfather,” she said. “He passed away, so we all came with her today.”

As Lost Time and the Atkinson Family Band wound down with their final songs, Miss Bush said it was her first time listening to bluegrass.

“It’s good,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s an interesting take on gospel music.”

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