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Artist of the Month: The Remington Ryde Bluegrass Festival

by on June 29, 2018 3:11 PM

Each July, people come from far and wide to sit down, relax with family and friends, and enjoy traditional bluegrass music under the warmth of the summer sun. The annual Remington Ryde Bluegrass Festival kicks off July 4 at Grange Park in Centre Hall and runs through July 8.

The festival began in 2007 because of Ryan Frankhouser’s drive to have a bluegrass festival near his hometown of Lewistown. The event started out in Reedsville with an attendance of about 400 to 500 people, but later moved to Centre Hall and now draws about 2,500 people each year.

The event is named after Frankhouser's bluegrass band, Remington Ryde. As the festival’s headliner and namesake, the band has been together for 12 years and performs more than 100 shows each year across the United States and Canada.

The group consists of Frankhouser on guitar and lead vocals, Billy Lee Cox on banjo and bass vocals, Richard Egolf on bass and tenor vocals, and Warren Blair on fiddle and baritone vocals. They attribute their sound to the bluegrass culture of Pennsylvania.

“The festival started in Reedsville at the Youth Park in Mifflin County,” RB Powell, a promoter for the event, says about its origins. ““About five years ago it moved to the Grange Fairgrounds. It’s a family-friendly event, so kids can run around and have fun while parents relax.”

Around 700 RVs park and hook up to electricity. Those RVs often house three generations of a family, Powell says.
“When you buy an RV, you need a reason to use it!” Powell says. “It’s much more economical.” Along with the RVs, about 100 people stay in tents under the trees at Grange Park.

“This bluegrass festival is an all-inclusive event where people come together to listen to good music and have a good time,” Powell says. “I’m very excited for this year.”
Bluegrass, a form of American roots music, was named after Blue Monroe’s band, the Bluegrass Boys. The band got its name from Kentucky bluegrass, which was popular in the state. Monroe was a mandolin player and songwriter.

Bluegrass traditionally is played on acoustic stringed instruments such as the fiddle, five-string banjo, mandolin, and upright bass. The genre was developed from old-time music and traditional music of the Appalachian region.

Another specific feature of bluegrass music is the singing. Vocal harmonies feature two, three, or four parts with a dissonant or mellow sound.

The festival features 24 acts including national, regional, and local bands. Each band plays a 45- to 50-minute set made up of about 13 to 15 songs. Five to six bands kick off the day around 10 or 11 a.m. and the music continues until nighttime.

Acts include Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Malpass Brothers, Lonesome River Band, The Grascals, Hillybilly Gypsies, and more.

Powell, from Nittany Mountain Trail Rides, is a financial supporter of the event and writes the grants applications to the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, which supports the festival. The grants are mainly used for the youth showcase and workshops.

“My family and I have been helping from the very beginning,” Powell says. “We have helped make the stages and my son has done audio for the festival before. We call ourselves bluegrass evangelists.”

Powell also assists in the instructional workshops to teach attendees how to better play their instruments in the style of bluegrass.

“Sometimes, people come without having played with other people and their timing is off,” Powell says. “There is a natural ebb and flow to bluegrass and sometimes new players step on the toes of others. This teaches people how to ‘jam’ well with others.”

Powell will be performing July 8 with his band, Unusual Suspects. He and his wife, Bridget, are classically trained musicians. Powell plays the banjo, upright bass and harmonica.

He says that he is most excited to see his friends because it is like a big reunion.

“The festival is a huge community and we come together to support other musicians,” Powell says. “The bands we bring in come from far and wide; some even travel across the country in buses to attend the event. We’ve had Grammy winners attend many times.”

Festival tickets range from $50 to $80 for the multiple days, and single-day tickets range from $15 to $25, depending on the date and day of purchase. Powell says the lower-priced tickets allow more people to afford the festival. Children under the age of 12 are allowed in for free.

Remington Ryde just released its sixth studio album, Live at the Bluegrass Ramble. The band not only performs at its own festival, but also the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival, the SPBGMA Bluegrass Awards in Nashville, the Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival in Indiana, and many more.
“There are thousands of bluegrass bands in our country, and about nine are located within central Pennsylvania,” Powell says. “There are more than you realize, and bluegrass has had a big influence on other styles like folk.”

For more information on the festival, visit remingtonryde.com.

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