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WHYS Bluegrass Festival brings lesser-known, high-impact bands to Altoona

Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Katy Macek | Leader-Telegram

Fans of WHYS 96.3 FM Radio's annual Bluegrass Festival (or bluegrass in general) can expect not one, but three days filled with this year's entertainers.

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Todd Adams, spokesman for WHYS Radio, said they have expanded events to cover the entire weekend so the acts who are traveling from further away can get the most out of their playing time. 

"We figured, as long as these groups are traveling 8 to 10 hours, we might as well make the most out of it," Adams said. 

WHYS Radio's Bluegrass Festival runs from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday at Lake Altoona County Park, 604 Beach Road, Altoona. Concerts are scheduled in the two days leading up to the festival as well as an invite-only Blues Brunch on the Sunday following the event.

Bands such as Grassfed and Steamboat Bandits are traveling from Kansas City, Mo. The Georgia Rae Family Band, which headlined last year's festival, will be returning this year from Illinois. In addition to the festival, you can check out this group of sisters performing today at Waterfront Bar & Grill, 512 Crescent St., in Menomonie, and Friday at The Mousetrap, 308 S. Barstow St. 

"Georgia Rae Family Band did a nice show last year so we're looking forward to that," Adams said.

Grassfed is a bluegrass group  that combines traditional bluegrass tunes with some eclectic influences. Steamboat Bandits describe themselves as a high-energy progressive bluegrass band that plays original tunes as well as bluegrass classics. 

Other things Adams is excited about? The festival also will include local legend Billy Krause and festival favorite Timber Junction. 

In addition to music, there will be plenty of food such as root beer floats, hot dogs and popcorn, and kids activities as well as a henna artist and Kubb tournament. Also new this year, Menomonie's Lucette Brewing is the official beer sponsor of the event.

While many music festivals try to get the biggest names possible in their respective genres, Adams said that is not the case with WHYS Radio's. 

They are looking for up-and-coming bluegrass bands that will jive well with the laid-back, relaxed atmosphere the festival has become known for. 

"We're trying to get bands before they get to a point where they've become too popular," he said. "We want to provide really quality music even though they are not household names. We've researched those bands, and I think we've got areally solid lineup this year." 

That's what he continually enjoys about the festival: The atmosphere as well as the feeling ofcommunity that comesout of such a relaxed environment. 

He said over the 11 years of the event he's noticed it's one in which toddlers as well as grandparents can all find something to enjoy.

"It unites different ages and interests of folks in the community," he said. "Everybody seems to be able to connect in a different way."

Tickets to the festival are $12, or $17 for a family pass. Prices will increase at the gate to $15 single or $20 for a family. 

All proceeds from the event will go back to WHYS Radio's operating costs to keep the community radio station plugging along. 

Contact reporter: 715-833-9214, katy.macek@ecpc.om, @KatherineMacek on Twitter

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