By Barbara Gibbs Ostmann
It’s May and in Silver Dollar City, than can only mean one thing: It’s bluegrass and barbecue time! The annual Bluegrass & BBQ festival runs from now through May 30 at the 1880s theme park near Branson, Mo.
Hailed as the country’s foremost bluegrass gathering, the festival brings the biggest names in bluegrass to the hills and hollers of the Ozarks. Crossover and cutting-edge headliners such as Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, the Grascals and IIIrd Tyme Out perform along with more traditional singers such as Audie Blaylock and Danny Paisley as well as new up-and-coming groups like Monroeville and Redhead Express to fill the park with non-stop music.
More than 50 bands and hundreds of performances show the diversity of bluegrass, says D. A. Callaway, the event manager for Silver Dollar City (SDC). Known for its vocal harmonies and acoustic instruments, bluegrass music blends European and African influences to create an all-American sound, explains Callaway, who visits bluegrass festivals across the country to recruit the best of both traditional and contemporary groups to appear at SDC.
For a sampling of local music, stop by the Dockside Theatre where Missouri bluegrass bands are featured in the Show-Me Showcase.
No reason to go hungry
“Bluegrass music is as American as barbecue, and we have that, too,” says Callaway. As the name of the festival implies, the foodservice wizards at SDC turn their attention to the grill and serve up a feast ranging from St. Louis ribs to Texas brisket to smoked chicken. The park is widely recognized for its top-notch foodservice, and this festival is no exception.
At the House of BBQ, park-goers can see the ribs, chicken and corn-on-the-cob cooking on large outdoor charcoal grills or smell the brisket as it slow-cooks for 18 hours in a custom-made nine-foot smoker. There are hundreds of sauces to sample, from sweet hickory to Carolina vinegar to smoky chipotle or the park’s own Honey Blackberry. Every afternoon there’s an all-you-can-eat barbecue feast featuring fall-off-the-bone ribs in four flavors, along with traditional barbecue sides.
During last year’s festival, more than 40,000 pounds of barbecue was served. The cooks are planning on at least that much this year, so come hungry.
Of course, there are other park favorites, such as funnel cakes, kettle korn, ice cream, burgers, tater twirls and more – something to satisfy almost any appetite or palate.
Two national competitions
The Bluegrass & BBQ festival is the site of two national competitions. The 5th Annual National Single Mic Championship, May 21-22, will showcase bands as they gather around a single microphone and balance their sound by moving toward or away from the microphone. The Youth in Bluegrass Band Competition, May 28-29, will feature amateur bluegrass musicians age 21 or younger.
“Silver Dollar City reaches hundreds of thousands of fans each year, making it one of the most significant and vital presenters of live bluegrass music anywhere in the world,” says Dan Hays, executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Association.
For a full schedule of performances and details on rates, hours, maps and more, visit www.silverdollarcity.com or call 800-831-4386.The park is open daily during the festival.