By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
Globe Staff Writer
CARL JUNCTION, Mo. —
Each year in September, the population of Carl Junction more than doubles for a day when the annual Bluegrass Festival gets under way.
Saturday, organizers and bluegrass lovers will celebrate 15 years of bringing the festival to town. It opens at 9 a.m., with bands and activities continuing until 6 p.m.
Pat Smith, organizer and former city councilwoman, said it all began when the town’s former mayor, Jim Wisdom, took her to Center Creek Park one day to discuss ideas for getting visitors to town.
“He said, ‘There’s a lot of people in this town who don’t know we even have this big, beautiful park,’” Smith said. “So we decided to have music. A guy across the street from Jim played in a bluegrass band, and that’s how it all got started.”
Smith said the first festival drew a crowd of “maybe 1,500 people.” Wisdom died at age 80 just a week before the 2007 festival, but his idea lives on.
“We estimate that now we get more than 9,000 people coming in from all over. We never knew at the beginning we’d be celebrating 15 years,” she said. “But bluegrass has quite a following, and it’s also a way for people in the area to get together and socialize every year.”
Randy Corbin, who is in charge of booking musical talent, seeks bands from across the Midwest.
This year’s acts will include Center Creek Bluegrass, of Webb City, from 9:30 to 10:15 a.m.; The Last Resort, of Diamond, from 10:15 to 11 a.m. and Farnum Family, of Galena, Mo., from 11 a.m. to noon.
The Claytons, of Stockton, will play from noon to 12:45 p.m.; The Bluegrass Brigade, of Kansas City, from 12:45 to 1:45 p.m.; and Al Brumley Jr., of Monett, from 1:45 to 2:30 p.m.
Awards from the car show will be handed out at 2:30 p.m. Music will resume at 3 p.m. with The Dalton Gang, followed by the Potters Wheel, of Lebanon, from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m.; Red Bridge, of Ozark, from 4:15 to 5:15 p.m.; and Kentucky 31, of Stockton, from 5:15 to 6 p.m.
Arts and crafts vendors will have booths on the west and south side of the south pavilion. The car show -- which has generated from 50 to 80 entries in past years -- can be found on the north end of the park. Registration begins at 8 a.m., with the first 50 participants receiving a dash plaque. The entry fee is $20. This year, 12 trophies will be given in six classes as well as an Exhibitors’ Choice.
About 13 concessionaires, from barbecue to funnel cakes, will be found in the south pavilion and on the east side of the tennis courts.
Children’s activities will include a bounce house, a Carl Junction FFA petting zoo, face painting, a trackless train and new this year: calf drop bingo as a fundraiser for the senior trip.
“They’ll set up a pen with a calf in it. They’ll divide the pen into one-foot squares and sell them for $5 each. When the calf does its business, whatever square it lands on, that person will win half the money,” Smith explained.
Those attending are advised to bring lawn chairs or blankets because a limited number of hay bales are available.
Admission to the festival is free, but donations are accepted. All parking is directed by the Missouri Governor’s Mounted Guard, and handicapped parking will be available. Only service dogs will be allowed in the festival area.