Originally created 05/14/05

Bluegrass Festival in Aiken draws hundreds



AIKEN - Friday night was girls' night out for Gail Graham and Susan Mimmie, and with two free tickets, they decided to check out the city's second annual Bluegrass Festival.

Neither of them claimed to be bluegrass enthusiasts, but the Aiken residents wanted to give the sound a try.

"I thought it would broaden my horizons, and I'd see what the music's all about," Ms. Graham said.

Ms. Mimmie agreed.

"I've heard about, but I don't know a thing about it," she said.

The local band, Doug and the Henrys, played traditional bluegrass and folk music outside the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. The show then moved inside, where Mountain Heart performed.

For the most part, the dress code was casual among the more than 280 music lovers. The occasional coat and tie mingled with sports shirts and sleeveless summer dresses, jeans, T-shirts, shorts and sandals.

Tom Townsend and Judy Boykin traveled from Orangeburg to hear Mountain Heart.

"We're a big fan of theirs," Mr. Townsend said, "and we follow them around."

"You make us sound like groupies," said Ms. Boykin.

"We are!" Mr. Townsend said.

Grant Larlee and his wife also wanted to hear Mountain Heart. Mr. Larlee said he is a fan of all bluegrass music.

"It's just different," he said "I like the banjo and the fiddle."

He said they would return to the festival today, when nine bands perform in downtown Aiken.

Event organizers said they expected 1,000 people or more at today's concert. Proceeds from the festival will benefit the Specialized Therapeutic and Recreational Riding program, a horse-riding initiative for children and adults with disabilities.

Last year, the event corralled $12,000 for the nonprofit organization. Festival organizers hope to double that amount this year.

There are a number of hands-on activities to keep children occupied. Youngsters can make a walking stick, a bird feeder or a tambourine. They can pan for gold, play jug band instruments or show off their talents in a sunflower-seed-spitting contest.

"The emphasis is really on the local music and the kids," said Steve Groat, the event chairman. "Our feeling is if children hear bluegrass music, then as adults, they'll love it, too."

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (803) 648-1395, ext. 113, or betsy.gilliland@augustachronicle.com.

If you go

WHAT: Aiken Bluegrass Festival

WHEN: Noon to 11 p.m. today

WHERE: Newberry and Chesterfield streets, Aiken

COST: $15 at the gate (Free for children under 12)

INFORMATION: www.aikenbluegrass festival.org