The oldest bluegrass festival in B.C. is fast approaching and the Coombs Rodeo Grounds will be home to many picking parties from Friday, July 31 to Sunday, August 2.
With bands performing bluegrass, banjo and traditional music as well as music workshops, the 37th annual Coombs Bluegrass Festival promises to be a fantastic weekend of great entertainment.
There are several superlative bluegrass bands playing this year, from around the United States and Canada and organizers are certain they will draw a big crowd.
Feature bands include Marc Roy and Friends from Toronto, Cloverpoint Drifters out of Victoria, North Country from Washington State, Branch 11 of the Coombs Old Time Fiddlers, Dry Mill Road, Flat City Folk from Winnipeg and more.
Nell Bowles who is a member of the Coombs Old Time Fiddlers said they look forward to performing at the festival every year since their music appeals to the older crowd.
She said they expect a large crowd on the dance floor.
“A lot of the people appreciate the old time fiddle music,” she said.
“People like to dance to our music.”
Bowles said they will set the mood for an old time dance that will include great waltzes, polkas, two-steps, schottisches and reels played by Vancouver Island musicians.
The group has been going strong since the 1980’s and has about 45 regular and lifetime members of whom about 20 are active musicians.
And while the local music club may be called Old Time Fiddlers the group is far from a bunch of old timers plucking on a banjo.
You don’t have to be old to be part of their group and new members are always welcome.
Members of the club range in age from 20 to 98 and play a variety of instruments.
A lot of the musicians play the fiddle and of course the banjo, guitar, mandolin and sometimes accordion.
Some members also play bass spoons and occasionally and washtub bass.
Bowles who plays the fiddle said she has been playing for about 10 years and she is fairly new at it compared to some of the others in the group.
“We have George who is 97 and Ruby who is 98. She is our piano player. They will be playing at bluegrass festival but they don’t play at our weekly dances at night anymore. It is a day to day thing with them,” she said.
She said they have a dance every Thursday in Qualicum Beach from 7:30 – 10 p.m. and once a month usually the first Sunday from 2:30 – 4 p.m. at the Rotary House on Fern Road.
She said their music continues evolve. It has Celtic roots and some of it is from the Canadian Maritime provinces but it isn’t just music from the good old days.
“We have musicians right across Canada who write tunes with an old time flare to them.
There are a lot of new tunes written by old time fiddle players.”
The Coombs Old Time Fiddlers are scheduled to perform Sunday at 5 p.m.
Another popular part of the festival is the free workshops offered all weekend long in the Coombs Hall.
This year the workshops include bluegrass beginner harmony singing, an intermediate bluegrass circle jam, and workshops on fiddle, guitar, banjo and more.
The Slow Pitch Bluegrass workshop, with Colleen O’Brien, Saturday goes 11 a.m.-12 p.m. and is a bluegrass must do for the newcomer.
People can check the schedule online and simply show up for the workshops.
There will be plenty of open mike opportunities and people are encouraged to get a group together and leave name with the emcee or on a clipboard on the back table.
The festival runs from Thursday, July 31 to August 3. A four-day weekend pass is $80, $60 for youth under 18 and kids under 12 are free.
Day and evening passes are also available and there is camping on-site.
There are no ticket presales at this festival.
Early can show up from Tuesday on, but there is a $15 per night camping fee charge until Friday morning when weekend passes becomes effective.
All early camping fees and weekend passes must be paid upon arrival.
For more camping information visit: HYPERLINK “https://sites.google.com/site/coombsbluegrassfestival/camping” https://sites.google.com/site/coombsbluegrassfestival/camping.