By Cody Thompson
GRAPELAND – Break out your banjos and get your dancing shoes on because the 20th Annual Memorial Day Gospel and Bluegrass Music Festival kicks off on Thursday, May 25 at Salmon Lake Park in Grapeland.
The event, located at 357 Salmon Lake Road, boasts four days of fun, clean music from bluegrass artists across the country.
“When I first took over the festival, almost all of the bands were from Texas. Occasionally we would get one from Missouri, but, for the most part they were all from Texas,” Texas Bluegrass Association president Colee Littlefield told the Messenger on Friday. “Now we’ve got bands from all over the country coming out to the festival.”
The bands that will be performing at this year’s festival include: The Baker Family, Edgar Loudermilk, Shallow Creek, Catahoula Drive, Bama Blu-Grace, Chris Henry & Hardcore Grass, The Marksmen, The Purple Hulls, Robertson County Line and Paul’s Journey.
“A lot of these bands that come from out of state really enjoy the festival and fight to get a time slot and come back,” Littlefield said. “All of our slots have been booked since January.”
A jam session will be held each day at the pavilion near the park’s blacksmith shop, where people can bring their instruments and play music with other festival attendees, according to Littlefield.
“People can play under the pavilion, but we also have an air-conditioned building that people can go play their instruments in,” Littlefield said. “It’s always a lot of fun seeing people get together and make music together.”
Littlefield first came to the bluegrass festival in 2005 and quickly became a regular.
“I moved to Houston in 2005 and a good friend of mine lives in Pearland, and he told me to come out to the festival,” Littlefield said. “When I first got here I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ it was amazing. The park owner, Floyd (Salmon), actually took me around the whole park the first time I was out here. Floyd didn’t know me from Adam at the time, but he still showed me around.”
After years of attendance, Littlefield was handed the reigns of the festival by the Salmon family, according to Littlefield.
The festival was, “one of the world’s best-kept secrets,” and not very many people knew about it during its early years, according to Littlefield.
“When I first started coming to the festival in 2005 there weren’t so many people and they had kinda quit advertising and venturing out for different bands.” Littlefield said. “I kept coming and got acquainted with everybody, and one day Floyd told me that they had to shut the festival down. I asked if there was any way that we could keep it going and he told me, ‘Well, I guess you could take over the festival.’”
The festival begins on Thursday, May 25 and continues through Sunday, May 28. Admission to the festival is $15 on Thursday and Sunday and $20 on Friday and Saturday.
“People need to come out and hear the music, because it’s not what they think it is,” Littlefield said. “Bluegrass music has evolved so much since it started and the musicians are absolutely amazing.”
For more information about the festival or about Salmon Lake Park, visit www.salmonlakepark.com, or visit the frontmost building at the park and request to speak to Littlefield.
Cody Thompson may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.