The Osceola Bluegrass Festival continued for its second day Saturday at Fern Hunsberger Park, where as in the past 28 years, a lively and spirited acoustic sound beckoned and soothed thousands of souls.
“It’s like a way of life. It’s a simpler kind of organic living. It’s all acoustic music, and it comes from the heart and soul, and it’s very invested in our history,” said Chere McKinley as she warmed up with a Niles, Mich., bluegrass-based band, 23, between two RVs prior to their afternoon set.
As 23 readied to take the stage, the Jackson family and their band, Lonesome Meadow of Westerville, Ohio, who were once again the headliners at the festival, were concluding a rousing set with an energized version of the Dolly Parton-penned “Jolene.”
Fiddler and lead vocalist Anne Marie Jackson and her two brothers, John on guitar, and Gary on banjo, front the band, as their father Mark plays upright bass. They’ve been together for close to seven years, and even mother Julie is involved, as she sells CDs and plays public relations rep off stage.
Anne Marie calls the fiddle a violin, as she started playing classical violin when she was younger. She follows in the footsteps of her granddad, who plays fiddle and guitar. “We like to play, it’s kind of our family’s music. My granddad plays it, all of my dad’s side of the family plays it, so it’s like home for us,” said Anne Marie, who looks fondly to playing at the Osceola festival, “a great festival,” which her family has played four times. And then when they’re not on the road, Anne Marie said that nothing beats the feeling of playing on her grandparents’ front porch back home.
The festival, which runs through the afternoon today, Aug. 19,, is not just about bluegrass music. Food options are endless, as there is homemade ice cream, pork tenderloins, ribs, pizza, tropical ice drinks and all sorts of dogs. Boy Scout Troop 122 of Osceola is also present for its annual all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast. There are also many arts and crafts and other booths.
Sam Kindley of Mishawaka was at a booth that featured the cigar box guitars he makes. “They’ve been making them since the Depression,” said Kindley. “They used to make them out of broom handles, and cigar boxes, and any kind of wire they could find.” Kindley said the guitars were played mostly in the Delta by blues musicians, and that “there has been a big resurgence of it in the last few years. There are actually festivals dedicated to the music of cigar box guitars.”
Back on stage, it was time for Carl Bentley and the Eagle Creek Band of Morristown to take the stage, as 23 finished up its afternoon set. Carl’s son Mason, 5, may not have many licks down quite yet, but he sure knows how to wear a cowboy hat. Carl said his son accompanies the band on stage mostly to gain a sense of stage presence.
Bobby Johnston, 74, who had retired from bluegrass after a career that started at age 9 and featured appearances at the Grand Ole Opry and gigs with Conway Twitty, was also getting ready to take the stage with the Eagle Creek Band.
Johnston loves bluegrass sort of like the name of a band that he used to be in — A Thousand Pounds of Bluegrass. “When I was a kid there wasn’t nothing to do. We worked. We had no TV, we had no electricity. We had a battery-powered radio, and music was something to do. Kind of like a kid playing with a bicycle — but I never had one, I had a fiddle.”