Small but dedicated crowd for Bluegrass at the Lake
For Luanne and Terry Soukup of Goessel, Bluegrass at the Lake is an annual tradition.
They attend each year. Their bluegrass-loving friends from other towns join them.
Bob and Jeanette Johnson of Winfield enjoyed the festival along with them Saturday, just as the four enjoy Winfield’s bluegrass festival together every year. Luanne wore earrings appropriate to the event – brightly colored guitar picks with “Marion County Lake Bluegrass” printed on them.
Bluegrass-lover Tammy Schlosser, rural Herington, also came to meet friends and groove to the music.
According to Mike Crane, president of Friends of Marion County Lake and senior volunteer for the festival, this year’s festival drew less than half the estimated number of people attending last year.
About 340 people bought $5 wristbands at the gate.
“I was thinking there were 800 last year,” Crane said.
Crane said swimmers at the beach and people sitting in the trailer and camping area added more to the count.
“At 4 o’clock we might have had 100,” Crane said.
This is the first year the festival has had a charge for admission. Crane said an admission charge will continue in future years in an effort to make the festival self-sustaining instead of relying heavily on sponsorships.
“You’ve got to finance this thing,” Crane said. “It has to self-fund or it will die, and it will die a very quick death.”
The charge is lower than other festivals in the area, Crane said.
“It’s not going to be free anymore,” Crane said. “The more money is available, the better bands we can get.”
He speculates that getting playbills out later than usual this year might also have contributed to lower attendance.
“We don’t know if people didn’t know it was going to happen,” Crane said.
Festival organizer Bob McCurdy said he would have liked to have had triple Saturday’s attendance, but added that temperatures in the mid-90s might have kept people from coming. Some years temperatures for the festival have been in the mid-80s, McCurdy said.
Because so few people arrived before the professional bands started playing, Crane said organizers might start festival music later next year.
Wichita native Michael Cobb came by himself but sat with friends he encountered Saturday and photographed the bands as they played. This was the second year Cobb has attended Bluegrass at the Lake, and he said he enjoys the setting as much as the music.
“I really like it,” Cobb said. “It’s a beautiful lake.”
As the Oklahoma City bluegrass band JV’s Fillin’ Station came to the end of their next-to-last number, lead singer Jay Vick’s six-string guitar suddenly became a five-stringer when one string broke. Vick announced the next song would be the band’s final piece.
The next band, Whiskey for the Lady, took the stage next and performed a mixture of traditional and non-traditional bluegrass-flavored numbers, such as “Take it Easy.”
“This is our first time at this festival, but we’ve been coming to Kansas for several years,” Vick said after the performance.
He and band members, bassist Jason Harper and mandolin-player Bob Holliman have performed at Winfield each of the last 20 years, Vick said.
Being a performer didn’t deter Harper from having some extracurricular fun while at the festival. When the band’s picking and singing was done, Harper joined two festivalgoers playing hacky sack. The group of players grew larger when several other festivalgoers joined in.
Last modified Sept. 13, 2018