The Backbone Bluegrass Festival at State Park celebrates 40 years of fun
If you close your eyes and listen intently (perhaps with a favorite bluegrass tune in your head), you might be able to hear mandolins, banjos, and violins heating up all over the state – and the country! – for the 40th Annual Backbone Bluegrass Festival, which takes place July 23-25 at Backbone State Park (Iowa’s oldest state park) in Strawberry Point.
Originally held in 1981 as the Strawberry Point, Iowa Bluegrass Festival by music enthusiast Linzy Martin to raise money to dredge the lake at Backbone State Park, it took off and is now, 40 years later , stronger than ever.
“We were lucky to break even the first two years, and we quickly went from fundraising to ‘fundraising’,” said Martin.
Martin himself still runs the festival, which is now known as the Backbone Bluegrass Festival and includes not only concerts, but the Strawberry Jam Camp and Songwriters Workshop as well. Martin’s experience includes a long-standing appreciation for music of all kinds.
“I am a retired lawyer and magistrate, so I like to say that I have been accused of playing the mandolin, but there is not enough evidence to convict me,” he said.
Thinking back over the past 40 years, he said the greatest achievement is how he has gone from a fledgling festival that was started and promoted by a group of volunteer novices to what is now the oldest and most big iowa bluegrass festival.
“We started in a hay field with a flatbed truck for a stage and a raised tarp for the shade,” he said. “We have evolved to the point where we now have a beautiful 20 acre woodland site that is landscaped in a park-like setting with a wonderful new stage built by all of the volunteers and much of the material donated by local businesses. ”
For many families, the festival has become a beloved tradition and ‘a throwback to a time when families and neighbors got together, sang or played music, told stories or just listened, in a healthy environment difficult to find. find today ”. Martin said.
Each stage performance on the natural amphitheater lasts five hours, with jam sessions taking place all over the pitch, sometimes extending into the wee hours of the morning. Camping is permitted on the grounds (no reservations required; $ 15 to $ 30 per night), or you can simply drive to the stage performances.
Not sure if bluegrass is your thing? Martin said: “Bluegrass is a specific genre that features banjo and violin music with warm guitar, mandolin and dobro, all held together by a strong double bass, but it also incorporates country, cowboy, old times, gospel and folk. , as well as old rock ‘n’ roll and classic played on acoustic instruments. It’s not what you think. “
His last tip? “Try – you might like it.”
Address: Backbone State Park, 1356 110th Street, Strawberry Point
Distance from downtown Des Moines: 165 miles
Tickets: Buy tickets separately for each show, or attend all five shows for just $ 45. Children 13-16 cost $ 5 per day and children 12 and under are free. See all ticket options at backbonebluegrass.com.
Musical acts: This year’s lineup includes three award-winning bands from Nashville and three bands that have performed in Branson, as well as some outstanding local talent.
Strawberry jam camp: Come early for the Jam Camp, which takes place July 21-23. It has two components: the instrumental and the songwriting. The instrumental component teaches you to play music with others in a band, and the songwriting camp shows how to take a story or poem and turn it into a song. Learn more at fraisejampcamp.com.
Kids: Although there are no specific activities for children, Martin equates it to “an old-fashioned family picnic, where children are encouraged to make new friends and create games or games. to play those old forgotten games like kickball, to hide and seek or to explore the grounds for salamanders, bugs or tree locusts. In the evenings, families make campfires, tell stories and sing songs. Sometimes up to four generations of a family are present.
Fun fact: The Festival welcomed visitors from all states of the contiguous United States, as well as those from Denmark, Germany, Norway, Australia, Japan, Mexico and Canada. Organizers expect to see more than 1,500 participants this year.
While you are there: Explore Backbone State Park and hike Devil’s Backbone bedrock, one of the state’s most popular hikes. Take a selfie with the world’s largest strawberry at Strawberry Point and visit the Wilder Memorial Museum (wildermuseum.org), which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, best known for its collection of 800 antique dolls and doll furniture, among other artifacts.
Where to eat: Food is available at the Festival, or you can bring your own. Martin points out that there are many options available in and around Strawberry Point, ranging from fast food to sit-down and specialty restaurants. “Let Google be your friend,” he said. “I’m not going to get in trouble by naming a favorite.”