By JOHN McBRYDE
For a few hours Friday evening and all of Saturday, the stage will be full of performers for the 29th annual Bluegrass Along the Harpeth festival on the Franklin town square.
The lawns surrounding the stage will be bustling with music as well.
“We have just about as many jamming under the shade trees who’ll never get on stage,” said Tommy Jackson, founder and director of the festival. “They don’t care to [perform on the stage], they just like to play under the shade trees and jam. That’s where the magic is, watching all that happen. All of that is unique.
“And for those who may not know how to find somebody to pick and play with, here’s your opportunity. You come down and you never know, you might find somebody to get in a band with.”
There is also plenty at the family-friendly festival for those who aren’t necessarily musically talented but enjoy bluegrass and old-time sounds. The event kicks off Friday from 7-10 p.m. with headliners Deanie Richardson, a Nashville fiddle player who will perform along with Tina Adair, and Crosswind, a gospel bluegrass band from West Tennessee.
Saturday is competition day, lasting from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with bands and individuals performing in 16 categories: mandolin, flattop guitar, banjo, junior fiddle, senior fiddle, old-time banjo, beginner musicians (14 and under), beginner freestyle dance, old-time string band, old-time singing, junior freestyle dance, young adult freestyle dance, bluegrass bands, adult buck dancing, Appalachian flatfoot dance and bluegrass open, which is a new category.
No alcohol will be sold at the festival, but there will be a handful of food trucks and tent vendors selling a variety of food. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs, Jackson said.
“We have about 250 chairs available, but you’re going to be more comfortable in your own chair,” he said.
Bluegrass Along the Harpeth is one of the Midstate’s older bluegrass festivals with competition, something Jackson said is a source of pride.
“We’re really blessed to keep one going, because a lot of them are dying out,” he said.
The festival is free, but proceeds collected from entry fees will benefit the Williamson County Cultural Arts Commission.