Bluegrass festival to kick off

Thursday’s first performance day of the newly-remodeled edition of the Mississippi Bluegrass Reunion in Purvis will feature Ralph Stanley II, the son of legendary bluegrass entertainer Ralph Stanley.

The Lamar County bluegrass festival will be held Thursday-Saturday at the Lamar County Fairgrounds in Purvis under new management and promotion.

The elder Stanley, who died June 23, 2016, was among the first generation of bluegrass musicians and was inducted into both the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry.

The Lamar County Board of Supervisors contracted with award-winning bluegrass promoter Bertie W. Sullivan of Hattiesburg. The event is called “Mississippi Bluegrass Reunion,” with the motto, “Reunite with Family and Friends at Purvis, Mississippi, Where the music inclines with the longleaf pines.”

Several performers will be picking and singing bluegrass for the first time on stage in Mississippi, Sullivan said. Also scheduled to perform during the three-day event are The Kevin Prater Band; Bill Ellison, Temperance & Jeff; Our Gang Bluegrass, The Eddie Pilgrim Family, King James Boys, Trinity River, Driskill Mountain Boys, Fair River Station, Branded Bluegrass, Wood ’n Wire and Magnolia Drive.

All showtimes begin at noon each day at the Lamar County Fairgrounds and the festival will be held rain or shine. Admission is $25 each day or $60 for the three days. RV hookups are available at $18 per day for 30-amp sites or $25 for 50-amp sites.

Sullivan said the bluegrass and camping are family-oriented.

“It’s the one place that a young family can come because children 12 and under are free,” she said. “If it’s a family of four, by the time the parents come in and the kids are exposed to the music and exposed to the kind people who are there, one day those children may become students of the music and actually become performers.”

Sullivan, who has been named the Mississippi State Bluegrass Association’s Bluegrass Promoter of the Year for six of the past eight years, became involved in bluegrass performances in the 1970s. She said she has been making friends at every event.

 “You get new best friends at every festival,” she said. “Mississippi has it all when it comes to music and we are blessed in that area. Bluegrass and the people who follow the music are so genuine. They love to share their music, like jamming and going into the schools.

“I know that if I am able to continue working with the Lamar County Board of Supervisors, I would like to take some bands into the elementary schools to do assembly-type programs with the children. I think one of the elements that makes bluegrass apart (from the other genres) is that we include the entire family.”

Lamar County Administrator Joseph “Jody” Waits said the direction of the bluegrass festival was changed this year.

“The county has done a bluegrass festival for years,” he said.

“We’ve done it in-house; our director of Parks and Rec has taken care of that. We give him a budget for that. He’s great at Parks and Rec and he came to us and said, ‘Hey, let’s hire a promoter who’s great at promoting bluegrass festivals.’ It’s really another world and Mrs. Bertie Sullivan is well-established in that world. We think she will do a great job.”

Sponsors for the bluegrass festival are Bourne Brothers Printing Company, Toomey Equipment Co., Saga Music & Blueridge Guitars, Mississippi Music Inc., Deering Quality Banjos, B95 Radio Pine Belt Country, ChordBuddy and Hub City Spokes.