Bollinger Mill site holds a bonus summer concert

Monday, July 8, 2002

BURFORDVILLE, Mo. -- During the 10 years that the Bollinger Mill State Historic Site has been hosting folk concerts in Burfordville, the size of the crowds hasn't surged tremendously, though the waters nearby have.

The twice-yearly concerts usually draw between 150 and 200 people, and Sunday's "bonus" concert was no exception. The regular concerts are held in June and September, but because the Grace Family was playing nearby at Lake Wappapello on Saturday they were invited to the mill for a concert Sunday.

The Grace Family -- folk musicians Paul and Win Grace of Columbia, Mo. -- performed songs from the 1850s to present day for about 150 people in a late-afternoon concert.

The area where the stage was set up had been under water in early May when much of the region was flooded. Several concerts over the years have been relocated to the Little Ol' Opry because of rain, but dry weather and a slight breeze meant Sunday's performance conditions were nearly ideal.

Suited to time period

There are lots of places were people can hear bluegrass, said Jack Smoot, administrator of the Bollinger Mill site. But "we try to bring more traditional, what is suited to this time period."

The mill was built in 1858, and a covered bridge spans 140 feet of the Whitewater River.

Some in the audience were fans of folk music and came to hear voices they'd heard sing before. Others just liked the atmosphere of a concert under the trees.

"I just enjoy this kind of music, and this is one of the few places to hear it," said Felicia Fox of Cape Girardeau.

"This is enjoyment," said Lloyd Schlimme as he sat in a lawn chair in the shade of a nearby tree.

Children played and couples picnicked as the Graces performed for about 90 minutes, with a short intermission.

The Graces admit that their music isn't topping the charts, but some of their songs have been hits nonetheless. The duo sang "Don't Fence Me In," which was a hit when recorded by Bing Crosby after only 30 minutes in a recording studio. Another song performed was "I Want to Be a Cowboy Sweetheart," originally recorded by Patsy Montana in 1938.

The duo has released a fifth album, which includes the song originally done by Montana.

"Folk music hasn't hit a vein of gold," Win Grace said. "We haven't decided if we're too far behind or too far ahead to catch the ride and get famous."

The Graces have been performing together professionally since 1986. The husband-and-wife team frequently performs at state parks, fairs and outdoor events in the spring, summer and fall.

Their venues include school assemblies, living history events and concerts. The songs they perform changes with each concert, usually to adapt to the event.

"We play whatever we like," Paul Grace said, not necessarily music from any one single period. "We do whatever's in style."

Folk music has been enjoying some popularity thanks to the interest in the bluegrass and folk sounds of the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack, but most of the audiences the Graces see are older. "I would like to see some younger ones because that's how you get the next generation going," Paul Grace said.

The next concert at the Bollinger Mill Historic Site is set for Sept. 22.

335-6611, extension 126

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