A Cartersville festival is adding other kinds of traditional American music to the bluegrass it has been featuring the past six years.
The Cartersville Bluegrass & Roots Festival is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 19, from 11:30 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. featuring live music on two stages and almost 80 vendors of all types between Church Street and Main Street in downtown Cartersville.
The Cartersville Downtown Development Authority began working in March with volunteers and area businesses to organize the festival, said Authority director Lillie Read.
A total of 11 musical acts are scheduled, with six performing on the event’s Bluegrass Stage at the historic train depot near City Hall and five on the Roots Stage at the old firehouse at Church Street and North Public Square.
In addition to music, it will feature around 17 food vendors with offerings ranging from pulled pork and pimento cheese to ice cream; and 60 arts and product vendors featuring everything from handcrafted goods to window renovations and Tupperware, according to a program guide on the official festival website cartersvillebluegrass.com.
Nonprofits also will be featured, such as the Pumphouse Players performance troupe and the Boys & Girls Club of Bartow County, which the festival is benefiting.
CHOICE OF MUSICThe festival’s apparent narrow musical focus has not kept away the crowds which have averaged an estimated 5,000 annually in recent years, Read said.
A Facebook invitation for the event — in the area surrounding the city’s Historic Depot and Friendship Plaza Park — showed 15,000 indicated they were interested in attending less than two weeks before this year’s festival.
Read said bluegrass “is just a great music for coming out and enjoying a fall day.”
“You don’t have to necessarily know the words. The musicality is always great. It’s family-friendly, it’s fun to watch.
“It’s always been just a real enjoyable genre for us to produce here,” Read said.
Jamie Henderson, a Cartersville businessman and musician, is the festival’s music director. Read, Lara Jeanneret and Courtney Sutter organized the vendors, volunteers and marketing while Henderson booked the performers, he said.
Henderson said he added “roots” music to the mix for the first time this year to “give the festival a broader base of genres to choose from and an opportunity to expand the musical format.”
“Originally the theme was bluegrass and folk,” Henderson said.
“I wasn’t really finding that many folk bands and I’ve always wanted to add more variety for the audience that was similar to ‘early’ music. Blues, traditional country and jazz were the obvious choices.”
“Roots” can refer to any number of musical genres such as traditional blues, country and gospel, folk and more regional sounds like zydeco or tejano, according to a description by PBS for its 2001 series “American Roots Music.”
The lineup of bluegrass bands and performers includes Cartersville-based groups Old Mill Road Band and Flatt and Strugglin’; Rockmart-based Luther’s Mountain and the Sugar Creek Stompers, The Wiseman Brothers, and Nick DeSebastian & Friends.
Acts scheduled for the “roots” stage include the traditional country music of the Kris Youmans Band and Dallas-based Jayron Weaver; Atlanta-based blues band Sandra Hall & the Shadows and acoustic group the Bonventure Quartet; and the jazzy Jeff Sipe Trio.
Henderson said “one of the biggest highlights” for him was booking longtime Atlanta blues singer Sandra Hall’s band.
“Sandra Hall has been singing the blues since the ’60s and has opened for Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, James Brown and the Temptations,” he said. “I can’t wait to see her perform.”
HISTORYRead said over the years festival organizers featured bluegrass for a number of reasons rather than other music genres which may have more commercial popularity.
“The people who started the festival were bluegrass lovers … that was their passion and interest. As in a lot of good things in local government or community development, grassroots efforts are often the ones that stick.”
Henderson said he and Jeanneret, owner of Lara J Designs, Andy Bowen of Cohutta Fishing and former Authority director Tara Currier originated the idea for the festival in early 2013.
The four “discussed having some kind of music festival downtown to draw people to the area because we didn’t really have an event for downtown at that time.
“It was decided that bluegrass was a popular genre for young and old and would likely have the widest appeal,” Henderson said.
The three business owners sponsored the inaugural festival after deciding it should be a free event which relied primarily on sponsorships to cover expenses, Henderson said.
For more information, visit cartersvillebluegrass.com.