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The new home of bluegrass music


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Posted By Hugo Rodrigues, STAFF WRITER Woodstock Sentinel

Posted 3 hours ago

The Friendly City's outdoor park is set to become the regional summer home of bluegrass music.

The inaugural Sally Creek Music Festival is scheduled for July 3 to 5 at Canada's Outdoor Park, known to Oxford as the home of Canada's Outdoor Farm Show each fall. The festival is being co-ordinated by the Thames Valley Bluegrass Music Association, a non-profit organization aimed at promoting bluegrass music throughout this part of the country.

Festival organizer Gordon DeVries said the festival has already booked six leading American bluegrass bands based out of Nashville, Tenn., along with six of the best-known bluegrass groups from southwestern Ontario.

"We've been working to build a bluegrass audience throughout the area," DeVries said. "Bluegrass has so many good values to offer -- this is a festive way for many people to get together in a convivial setting to listen to some great music and play a little themselves."

After a series of successful concerts featuring bluegrass acts known throughout North America, the association wondered what a next step could be and a festival was a natural step on the progression. This area is no stranger to this sort of festival-- local resident Wayne Uncer, who connected the group with Canada's Outdoor Park, used to organize a bluegrass festival at the Pittock Conservation Area.

Canada's Outdoor Park is seen as the ideal site for the festival given its size and its ability to host 500 to 1,000 campsites. The park easily hosts up to approximately 700 different vendors during the farm show and the three-year history of the Great Canadian Outdoor Expo. Both those events hosted an average of between 30,000 and 35,000 visitors over their respective three-day runs.

"Canada' Outdoor Park is pretty near the only suitable site we've found in this region -- there were some other sites (up north) but this site is in our area and it's here we're interested in promoting this music," DeVries said. "The site is tailor-made for this sort of event."

DeVries said he believes bluegrass music -- with the prominence it gives to fiddle, mandolin, guitar and banjo - can attract youth and give them something beneficial and responsible to do as they learn and play. Bluegrass festivals tend to provide more opportunity for those in the crowd to strike up their own jams back at their campsites after the stages have drawn to a close for the night, he said.

Tickets for the entire weekend, including a campsite booking, are $75 until June 30, and $85 after that. Single-night tickets range between $30 and $40 depending on the night. DeVries said up to recently the association had only sold about a dozen tickets, but in the last week he's been receiving several calls a day.

Confirmed groups from the U.S. include 3 Fox Drive, Grasstowne, Lonesome River Band, Nashville Bluegrass Band, Nothin' Fancy and The 'Spanky' Moore Bluegrass Band. Canadian talent includes Blackwell, Foggy Hogtown Boys, Foxtail, Leavin' Train, Roger James, New Cumberland and Northern Sons.

There is one small planning matter before the festival can get a go-ahead-- city council must approve a zone change to allow the site to host a music festival on a seasonal basis. The public notice for the zone change has been circulated to neighbouring properties and is available on the Oxford County website -- the matter should be before council for approval in March.

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