Bootheel Bluegrass Festival returns for another weekend of musical performances

Friday, January 27, 2017
The Gipsons, from left, Megan, Corley, Tara, Sawyer and Brad, perform a bluegrass gospel song, "Redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb," on opening night of the Bootheel Bluegrass Festival on Thursday at Bavarian Halle in Fruitland. View a photo gallery and video at
Fred Lynch

Family acts, folk songs, good singing and guitar pickin' are on for this weekend at the Bootheel Bluegrass Festival in Fruitland.

The Bavarian Halle hosts the annual event, organized by husband-and-wife team Bull and Tammy Harman. About a dozen acts from around the Midwest will perform Friday and Saturday.

"Tammy and I have been organizing this show for the last five years, and it's been going on for 12 years total," Bull Harman said. "We're happy to see so many people come out for the festival."

Performances began Thursday and will continue at 2 p.m. today. Musical acts Bull Harman and Bull's Eye, the Barry Jones Family and others are lined up. Today also includes a string circle, in which several musicians will play together.

Saturday's festivities will begin at 1 p.m. and go until 10 p.m. Possum Trot, That Dalton Gang and Herbie Johnston and the Fiddlers' Frolic are scheduled.

"Fiddlers' Frolic is a popular event," Harman said. "We have several fiddlers, young kids and veteran performers, get up onstage and play together. There's a jam at the end. People really like it."

Although he enjoys all of the performances, Harman said some acts stand out.

"The Baker Family is young kids, and their mom helps them out, but they put on a show and are so talented," he said. "I always enjoy them."

Harman said The Lewises, Bob and Barb, have been in the show pretty much from the start, and they are a crowd favorite.

"You see a lot of family acts," he said. "A lot of times, kids will start out playing with their parents. I'm not saying all families should be out playing music live until they get a show down, but if you don't get out there and do it, sometimes, you're not going to."

Harman said he and his brother and sister started playing instruments together when he was 8 or 9 years old.

"We'd play family picnics and stuff for about three years before we finally played in a festival a lot like this one," he said. "Then we played all over the U.S."

Harman said his brother's family and his sister sometimes still get together and play with him and his family.

"The younger generation's interested, and I'm glad to see it," he said.

Harman said showing people how to play is a passion of his.

"I make it a point to show people something if they ask," he said. "I had older people show me, so I like to pay it forward."

In addition to the musical acts, several vendors have signed up to participate.

"They'll have candles, cooking utensils, crafts, birdhouses, jewelry -- you name it, they'll have it. Big variety there," he said.

Harman said they try to limit the number of vendors because space is at a premium, and they want to seat as many people as possible.

"We had well over 400 people there in 2016," he said. "We had every chair we could get, out."

He expects this year's crowd to be in that same range.

"We are always really pleased at how well-attended this show is," Harman said. "This music is a fun time."

Tickets are $15 per day and are available at the door or at Admission is free for those 16 and younger.

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