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Old-time music fest returns to Le Mars next week

Friday, August 24, 2012

The sounds of bluegrass, country and folk music will be heard in Le Mars next week.

The 37th Annual National Old-Time Country & Bluegrass Music Festival featuring more than 600 performers on 10 stages starts Monday at the Plymouth County Fairgrounds.

Throughout the nearly week-long festival, which ends Sunday, Sept. 2, musicians from across the world will share their talents from 9 a.m. to midnight each day.

Organizers Bob Everhart, and his wife, Sheila, are bringing the festival to Le Mars for the fourth year in a row.

Everhart said this year's festival will include several "special" celebrations including 100th birthdays and inductions into America's Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame.

One of the 100th birthday parties will be for the late Minnie Pearl (1912-1996), a comedian with the Grand Ole Opry cast and on the television show "Hee Haw."

"At 6 p.m. we're going to gather as many people together at a time to set a world record with the highest number of people screaming 'Howdeeeeeeee!' all at the same time," Everhart said.

Pearl was known for that phrase which she yelled at the beginning of her performances.

Along with 100th birthdays, next week's musical festival will also include appearances by several celebrities, Everhart said.

For example, country singer Lynn Anderson, best known for her song "Rose Garden" will croon to festivalgoers at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 1.

In addition, American cowboy music singer Michael Martin Murphey and harmonica player Charlie McCoy are scheduled to be at the festival Thursday, Aug. 30, Everhart said.

Along with American celebrities, next week's festival will also feature artists such as Ben Steneker, the "Godfather of Dutch Country" from the Netherlands, and Greta Elkin, the "Queen of Country Music" in Ireland, Everhart said.

The music festival will also offer free workshops where people can learn to play instruments such as guitar and autoharp, he said.

The festival will also feature contests in everything from yodeling to banjo playing with about $4,000 in prizes, Everhart said.

"All of that is part of the lure to attract people to a no-liquor, drug free event," he said. "If you are under age 18, you get in for free."

There is a fee at the gate for people 18 and older.

Everhart said the festival draws in about 3,000-4,000 people a day, a number he's hoping to beat during next week's event.

New to this year's festival will be a volunteer potluck dinner at 6 p.m. Sunday along with a free gospel show, which the public is invited to attend, at the fairgrounds.

"We even ask them to bring a home-cooked Iowa dish," Everhart said.

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