The 38th Annual Western Hills Bluegrass Festival is a family friendly music festival offered every winter in Wagoner.
Don and Wilda Thomas, Shawnee residents, are longtime bluegrass music fans. They started the festival in 1979. The bands performing this year are known across the country; Brightwater Junction, Cassville, Mo.; Dylan Hall and Pure Tradition, Langley; Heartland Express, Sand Springs; The Larry Ford Band, Leedy; Tony King and Switch Track, Van Buren, Ark.; Blocker Stevens Band, Seminole; The Horn Family, Crescent; Jon and Jamie Davis, Normangee, Texas; and SpringStreet Bluegrass, Muskogee.
Nick Alberty, Muskogee resident, is the lead harmony singer and mandolin player for SpringStreet. He has been playing bluegrass music for 20 years and at the Western Hills Bluegrass Festival for 14 years.
“I enjoy playing bluegrass because it's raw,” said Alberty. “There are no amplifiers or fancy sound systems to "change" the music.”
Jon Harden, Seneca resident, is part of Borderline Bluegrass band. He has been playing fiddle for over 30 years.
“I love to be on stage; I get a rush playing for a large audience,” said Harden. “I love getting an emotional response from the audience.”
This year is Borderline Bluegrass’ first year playing at the Western Hills Bluegrass Festival. Harden heard about this festival through other bands and wanted to be a part of it. Most of the bands will be geared toward tradition bluegrass music, but Borderline’s is a mixture of bluegrass and country with a bluegrass twist.
With the purchase of a ticket, attendees have access to countless jam sessions with members of the bands and other bluegrass music enthusiasts. There will also be workshops available to ticket holders.
Starting at noon on Friday workshops will be available for any level of talent. Workshops are for instruments such as five-string banjo, flattop guitar, fiddle, mandolin, dobro and bass. The workshops provide an opportunity for beginners to learn the basics and for advanced players to pick up tips.
“You'll meet new friends that'll become lifelong friends,” said Alberty.
Kristen Ross, Broken Arrow senior, just received a banjo for Christmas.
“I love banjos, and I would love to learn from someone experienced,” said Ross. “I’m really looking forward to this weekend.”
Those who do not play an instrument are also welcome.
“If you don't play, you're always welcome to just sit and visit with friends, eat wonderful food and just feel at home,” said Alberty.
Tickets are available the day of for $15 a day or $40 for a weekend pass.
The festival is Friday, Jan. 20 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 21 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. The festival is at the Sequoyah Lodge in Sequoyah State Park in Wagoner.
For more information, call Don Thomas at 405-308-0010.