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Fri, Feb. 28

Jammin' the Bluegrass Way<BR>Saturday's the day for annual fest

Once again, the courthouse plaza will resonate with the sounds of guitars, banjos, and other acoustic instruments as the second annual Bluegrass on the Square takes place this Sunday.

The Arizona Bluegrass Association (ABA) is sponsoring this free event to celebrate the month of May as "International Bluegrass Music Month."

Three bands will provide entertainment from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with exhibit tables of bluegrass instruments for folks to try out mini workshops.

Literature on bluegrass and fli-ers about upcoming festivals will also be available, along with traditional bluegrass "jamming" on the Goodwin Street side of the courthouse.

"Gold Rush" and "Spring Valley Breakdown" are returning to the courthouse stage at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 1:50 and 3:30 to be joined at 12:20 and 2:40 p.m. this year by "The Tylers" from Phoenix.

"Spring Valley Breakdown," a traditional bluegrass band from Spring Valley in the Mayer area, plays at 11:40 a.m. and 1:40 p.m. This group is a relatively new band that is making itself known at festivals in Arizona and Nevada.

"Gold Rush" hails from Mesa and has reached the finals for the National Bluegrass Playoff to be held in Victorville, Calif., in June. They will compete against four other finalists from the Southwest and the winner will receive an all-expense paid trip to the IBMA festival and trade show in Owensboro, Ky., in October.

"The Tylers" play more of a contemporary style of bluegrass. They have been a long-time Valley favorite and have toured as far as the New England states to play their unique style of bluegrass music.

Bill Monroe "invented" bluegrass in the 1930s. Now known as the "father" of bluegrass, Monroe incorporated elements of Dixieland jazz, ragtime, rhythm and blues, Irish fiddle tunes, and gospel music into a unique brand of folk music.

Played initially mostly in the Appalachian region of the U.S., bluegrass is now enjoyed by millions of people throughout the U.S. at more than 500 festivals each year, in addition to the many bluegrass fests in foreign countries.

Many of the people who love bluegrass music also play it. This becomes very evident at bluegrass festivals, where numerous "jams" go on into the wee hours. These jams are made up of "pickers," some of whom are stage performers, while others are self-taught music lovers. Each jam has its contingent of "grinners" who have settled down in their lawn chairs to listen to the music they love.

Almost every RV or tent at a festival comes complete with one or more acoustic instruments – guitars, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, and "dog house" bass, which are traditionally used to play bluegrass. Some bands will incorporate other instruments, but the general "rule" is that they must be acoustic. Electric guitars, keyboards, etc., are not acceptable in a bluegrass jam.

So get out that old guitar, grab a blanket or lawn chair, and come downtown on Sunday and enjoy "Bluegrass on the Square."

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