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Festival draws record crowd to lake

Staff writer

A gamble on two nights of professional music paid off as record crowds flocked over the weekend to Bluegrass at the Lake.

All 52 campsites at Marion County Lake were booked, and campers tented on any available patch of grass as visitors took in a weekend of music.

Friends of Marion County Lake netted $3,000 profit from $10,484 revenue, lake supervisor Isaac Hett said.

“This year was the best we’ve ever had,” he said. “We have never done a full line-up on Friday until this year.”

The first night of previous Bluegrass at the Lake events had been an open-mic for local bands who wanted to jam.

Organizers had a hunch fans would be eager for the festival’s revival after skipping a year during the pandemic and wanted to expand it.

“Having a full lineup on Friday and Saturday seemed to help a lot,” Hett said.

Richard Hopper smiled Friday as he adjusted 2-year-old daughter Arrow Lee’s ear protectors while she swayed to the music.

“She was right by the speakers,” he explained.

He and his family camp at the lake.

“We have attended every one of them until we missed last year, but we are glad to be back,” he said.

He knows members of several returning acts, but isn’t a musician himself.

“I wish,” he said. “We are just enthusiasts.”

Five sisters chose the county lake for their first sisters’ weekend after years apart.

“It’s been two years since we have been able to get together,” Donna Nelson said. “Usually we do it every year, but we were not able to last year.”

Nelson was host for siblings Wanda Roberts, Brenda Tarbet, Susan Shaw, and Carla Burch at her cabin until Sunday.

All five love the lake and have visited multiple times.

“We are enjoying the music, the wonderful weather, and eagle watching,” Nelson said. “We have seen the two older ones.”

Bluegrass fan Rhonda Fleming traded moves Friday with Foggy Memory Boys guitar player Andy Yeoman of San Diego.

Fleming traveled from Wichita to attend the festival and has come to know band members.

Yeoman said Rhonda helped bring the Foggy Memory Boys to the lake, but Fleming swatted him on the arm.

“I didn’t get them here, but I am so glad they are here,” she said. “Let’s get them back.”

Saturday night’s headliners were the Dewayn Brothers. It was the second time the band played the festival.

Dewayn Brothers got the majority of its 12-song set in before storms drenched the area with more than two inches of rain.

“This happens nearly every single year,” Hett said. “I had been watching the radar. It looked like it was going to miss us, and all of a sudden it was right on top of us.”

Members of the Dewayn Brothers took shelter underneath a pavilion and kept on playing until well after midnight.

“We barely made it out,” joked a band member about the storm, adding the show was “a lot of fun.”

Hett said he was “really happy” the final night of the festival avoided disaster.

Now he is busy with other things he will need to tackle.

This week, engineers will inspect erosion caused by heavy June rains at the lake’s dam and prepare a full report.

Electricians will drop power lines next week for a new heated fishing dock as contractors go to work removing an old one.

Hett has a wish list of other improvements — new flooring and lighting at the lake hall and electrical upgrades at camp sites.

So he has other fundraisers to plan.

“We have the chili cook off coming up in October,” Hett said. “Hopefully, we can make some more money on that. Then, we will get together and think of things that need to be upgraded.”

Last modified Aug. 11, 2021

 

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