The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


January 3, 2014

Bluegrass festival planned for Pittsburg in May

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Pittsburg is getting its own bluegrass festival -- something its organizer hopes will help the revitalization of the arts under way in the community.

The Cow Creek Bluegrass Festival is slated for May 17, with additional related activities planned the night before.

It's the brainchild of Tim Anderson, a Pittsburg resident for 29 years who several years ago began playing the guitar and then the violin as a hobby.

"It just grew into a love for bluegrass music," he said. "And then in July, I had the idea to do a festival here. There's festivals all over the country. Winfield, Lawrence, Springfield. I thought, 'There's no reason we can't do that here.'"

Buoyed by the new SEK ArtFest, the Pittsburg Art Walk which has expanded in the past year, as well as the recent restoration of the Colonial Fox Theatre and construction of the Pittsburg State University Center for the Arts, Anderson began making calls to line up acts and seek support.

"I've noticed big musicians stop at Wichita, Topeka, Kansas City, Tulsa, and we're right in the middle of them," he said. "World class acts are performing just a couple of hours away. There's nothing stopping them from coming here eventually. But the only way that's going to happen here is if we have a revival of the arts, and I think it's beginning to happen. A grassroots effort is one of the ways to do it. This bluegrass festival is one more step in getting well-rooted in growing the whole area."

"That, and I just love the stuff."

By "stuff," he means the acoustic blend inspired by the music of Appalachia, with roots in Irish, Scottish, Welsh and English music. Instruments common to the style of music include mandolins, banjos, dulcimers and fiddles.

Anderson has a lineup of seven Kansas-based bluegrass bands that will perform from noon until 10 p.m. at the J.J. Richards Band Dome in Lincoln Park. They include local group Deadeye, Kansas Citian Martha Haehl, the Southeast Kansas band Open Range, Kansas Heart, the Kansas sister act Scenic Roots from Concordia, MAW -- a "rowdy string band of Lawrence, Kan.; women who like to play and sing about murder, mules, mining and morphine," -- and the Alferd Packer Memorial String Band from the Lawrence area.

The night before, Anderson is spearheading a hootenanny for downtown Pittsburg.

"It's a Scottish word that means 'celebrate,'" he said. "We'll try to have as many artists as we can come in with their acoustic instruments. A band starts a song, and people jump in and play."

A movie is on tap that night to be shown at the Colonial Fox, and Anderson said attendees can plan to make an evening of it by visiting downtown bars and restaurants that have opened in the past year.

The day of the festival, artisans with old-time wares to sell or crafts to demonstrate -- think woodcarving, knifesmithing, flint-knapping and the like -- will fill Lincoln Park at 8 a.m., and another hootenanny will ensue.

"It will be some parking lot picking, where anyone can bring their instruments and come on down," Anderson said. "We'll have a couple of musicians conduct some workshops in a tent, and there will be activities for the kids like a sunflower seed spitting contest."

The festival will be free. Anderson still is seeking financial support from businesses, hotels and individuals, and is hopeful that grant awards will pan out.

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