The 36th Annual North Carolina State Bluegrass Festival will be held Thursday through Saturday (Aug. 19-21) at Tom Johnson Camping Center’s Rally Park in Marion, N.C. It is one of the largest bluegrass festivals in the country and for the first time it is being held in McDowell County, The McDowell News reported.
As of Tuesday afternoon, about 100 motorhomes had rolled into the rally park for this event and about 400 more should show up by Thursday. It is expected to draw thousands of bluegrass fans to McDowell County.
Adams and Anderson LLC of Dahlonega, Ga., is promoting and holding the festival. Promoters Norman Adams and Tony Anderson hold seven bluegrass festivals a year, from Virginia to Florida.
For 36 years, they have worked full-time putting on bluegrass festivals throughout the Southeast. While getting the place ready Tuesday afternoon, Adams said McDowell County and Tom Johnson Rally Park has turned out to be an excellent place for this event.
“We’ve had the best response from the locals I’ve ever seen,” he said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Adams and Anderson were busy taking tickets for the early arrivals and making sure everything was ready at the rally park and its pavilion.
“So far, everything is smooth,” said Anderson.
Adams started putting bluegrass festivals on in the early 1970s and Anderson joined him later in the work. Many don’t realize what all it takes to hold events of this size.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” said Adams.
“It’s a full-time job year-round,” said Anderson. “Booking the talent, bringing up everything involved, the sound and the lighting and the advertisement. Everything from the talent to the Port-a-Johns, we do.”
However, it is unlikely that Adams and Anderson will need portable toilets for this festival because of the facilities already available at the rally park.
“This is a first-class facility here,” said Anderson. “The owners and the staff are very accommodating.”
In addition to the acts, Adams and Anderson have contracts for about 30 vendors. At their request, Tom Johnson Camping Center made modifications to the stage at the pavilion in order to better accommodate the bluegrass groups that will play there. The stage was enlarged and better curtains were installed. Sherry Boyd will be the MC.
“We’ve never been anywhere where they have been nicer to us,” said Adams. “They have been super nice. The McDowell News has been super nice.”
Around six to seven food booths will be on hand too.
For many years, this festival was held in Cherokee, N.C. And during that time, Adams has worked with many of the greats in bluegrass music including Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley.
“I had Bill Monroe for 25 years,” said Adams. “And I had him booked three times when he died.”
He remembers the Father of Bluegrass as a “real super gentleman.”
The festival was moved to Marion because the Happy Holiday RV Village in Cherokee, where it had been held previously, closed down. This forced Adams and Anderson to find a new location for this event. They heard about Tom Johnson Rally Park from a woman who went to their festival in Cherokee.
“After we were unable to find a suitable location in Cherokee we called Tommy Johnson and set up a meeting,” said Susan Anderson with Adams and Anderson LLC. “We were very impressed with the facility and worked out the arrangements with Tommy Johnson. The staff at the camping center/rally park were so friendly. We immediately felt this was a good fit. We look forward to having the festival at the rally park for many years.”
Since then however, a new company was brought in to manage and provide consulting services to Happy Holiday RV Village. The park is now open for business and is even planning to hold different bluegrass festivals, according to Randall Hendrickson, president of Horizon RV Resorts.
Tommy Johnson, the son of company founder Tom Johnson, said he expects the campground to be full this weekend.
“This is the first time we’ve ever done it,” he said.
The first note for the North Carolina State Bluegrass Festival will be played at noon on Thursday with performances running through Saturday night. Among the artists performing at this year’s festival are seven-time International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Female Vocalist of the Year Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, two-time IBMA Entertainer of the Year Dailey & Vincent, seven-time IBMA Vocal Group of the Year Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, two-time IBMA Entertainer of the Year The Grascals and IBMA Hall of Famer Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press.
Tickets are $35 per day, or $85 for all three days. Advance tickets for children between ages 6 and 13 are $15 per day, or $40 for the entire festival. Three-day children’s tickets are $45. Children under the age of 6 are admitted free of charge with a paying adult.
Founded in 1967, Tom Johnson Camping Center, located in Marion and Concord, is the inaugural recipient of the Dave Altman RVB Top 50 Dealer Award by RVBusiness magazine. A Blue Ribbon award-winning dealership, Tom Johnson Camping Center is among the top 10 recreational vehicle dealerships nationwide.