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Monday, 14 August 2017 07:00

Bluegrass Music is dancing back to Nanton this August with the Shady Grove Bluegrass Festival

Written by  Demi Knight
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Audiences gather at the main pavilion to watch as performers take the stage at the 2014 Shady Grove Music festival. Audiences gather at the main pavilion to watch as performers take the stage at the 2014 Shady Grove Music festival. Photo courtesy Nicole Lerner/Stillsong Photography

The Shady Grove Bluegrass Music Festival will have participants dancing this summer in Nanton.


The festival, which is held each year at the Broadway Farm just 18 kilometres outside of Nanton, includes people from all its surrounding areas and across the country strolling through to get a taste of the event and experience the music, camping and jamming sessions that only a bluegrass festival can offer. 
Eric Holt, president of the Foothills Bluegrass Music Society, says the music and the venue make this festival set for Aug. 18-20 this year a must-attend event for people looking for wholesome family fun.
“The music is really good, and the atmosphere is very family friendly and part of that has to do with the venue,” he says. “It’s very unique, because you’re out in the country you can bring your kids and they can do whatever they want because you’re away from the busy city.”
The Shady Grove Bluegrass Music Festival, which has been a staple to the community for 27 years, brings an assortment of music lovers, players and fun-loving individuals together for a weekend of inclusive and dynamic fun.
The festival, which was founded many years ago by a few local people within Nanton who wanted to share their love for the bluegrass music scene, soon moved from the town to the bigger venue of the Broadway farm.
With a large pavilion that welcomes performers onto its indoor stage and large open surrounding fields, the farm gives the festival an added beauty that’s hard to describe, says Holt.
“Broadway Farm is a very cool place and has unique features which you have to see to realize the extent of it, but it has a sliding roof and built-in fire pit. There’s no place else like it. Because you’re out in the country, it’s a great atmosphere.”
The festival this year offers an impressive lineup of bluegrass musicians over the three-day event with 11 bands including Go ask Earl who perform on opening night at 6 p.m., as well as Hardly Handsome who play a set both on Friday and Saturday and many more.
The performances continue on two separate stages so all attendees can get their fill of the unique bluegrass music scene. However, it’s not only the performers who come to make music, but many of the campers too, with constant jamming sessions happening throughout the days. Holt says it’s both the performers and the attendees together that make the festival a weekend worth remembering.
“The main stage acts always bring in someone I’ve never seen before that’s just phenomenal and outstanding and then there’s always people jamming in the fields. There are groups of people who meet specifically to get together and play.”
Holt adds many of the performers themselves stay around to join in
with the music makers in the crowd, creating an inclusive atmosphere that is rare to find amongst festivals these days.
“The attendance varies each year between 600 to 800 people and its probably predominantly local people,” says Holt, before adding there are some who travel from across the country to take advantage of this unique festival each year.
“We get a lot of people from south of Calgary, High River and Nanton and a lot of Calgary people but we do also get people from out of town as far as Saskatchewan and British Columbia.”
However, it’s not just the music that keeps people entertained throughout the weekend, but also the ongoing activities this festival has to offer including instrument workshops, a band scramble, food and merchandise vendors and an outdoor park for children to enjoy.
The three-day event also boasts copious amounts of space for festival goers to set up camp for the weekend and engage in nightly campfire jamming.
Although it is an easy drive from Nanton, Holt says most people stay for the entirety of the festival to get the full experience. 
“Most people stay and camp because it’s a few kilometres outside of Nanton so it’s more fun to stay.”
The Shady Grove Bluegrass Festival will be at Broadway Farm Aug. 18-20 with weekend passes still available to the public for $95.
More information about the festival and this year’s lineup can be found on the Foothills Bluegrass Music Society website at: https://www.foothillsblue grass.com/index.php/events/event/43/Shady-Grove-Bluegrass-Music-Festival.

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