SUNDRE — An outdoor bluegrass festival provided a much-needed injection of folksy tunes for fans eager to get out.
“It’s about damn time — we’ve all been going through bluegrass withdrawal!” laughingly said Calgary resident Martin Kemp, who was accompanied by good friend Christine Webster.
The two drove out from Calgary on Saturday, Sept. 26 to join close to 100 people who attended the Taste of Shady Grove, which was organized by the Foothills Bluegrass Music Society and hosted at the Sundre Rodeo Grounds.
A portion of one field was sectioned off in squares to accommodate physically distanced cohorts, with a dedicated drive-in area not far behind. Kemp and Webster enjoyed the outdoor concert while lounging comfortably on lawn chairs in the back of a pickup truck.
Although a brief bout of rain and sleet rolled through at one point, the weather for a late September outdoor event started off otherwise accommodating.
“What a beautiful day for it. We couldn’t have been luckier,” said Webster, adding when asked her thoughts about coming out, “Great weather, great music, great people!”
Brenda Jackson, from Leduc, also enthusiastically attended and watched from the back of an SUV with the hatchback open.
“I’m super happy to be out,” she said.
On the docket were The Buggs, Bix Mix Boys, Allan and Arnell, Goaskearl, the Al Christie Band, as well as the Steve Fisher Band.
Organizers with the Foothills Bluegrass Music Society look forward to next year, when they plan to return to Sundre to host the 30th anniversary, three-day Shady Grove Bluegrass Festival. That event was originally planned for August, but was postponed until 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eric Holt, president of the society, seemed pleased with how everything turned out.
“I thought it went really well — everybody seemed to be really happy,” Holt said Monday morning, adding the feedback he heard was mostly positive.
“People wanted that taste of live music, and wanted to get out and do something.”
Virtual concerts have during the pandemic become more common, but simply aren’t a substitute for the in-person experience, he said.
And despite the turn in weather, he said people came prepared and spirits were not particularly dampened.
“We did get a little spate of sleet, and a little bit of rain,” he said.
“Some people ran for their cars to keep warm, and those in the drive-in area were already covered up, so they were fine.”
And most of those who attended paid heed to advice recommending being prepared for anything, he said, adding some people wrapped themselves up in blankets and sat under umbrellas.
To some concertgoers, enduring such conditions is even a badge of courage, he said.
Holt also expressed gratitude to the municipality as well as the Sundre Rodeo and Race Association for helping to coordinate the effort to make arrangements for the festival.