Originally Published: June 23, 2007 7:04 a.m.
PRESCOTT - Bluegrass music from some big names will fill the air at the courthouse plaza this weekend. The Prescott Bluegrass Festival celebrates 26 years of world-class performances from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a street dance beginning at 7 p.m. The music continues Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.This year, the free event brings Randy Waller and the Country Gentlemen, the Kirby Knob Boys, Palmer Divide, Elliot's Ramblers and Desperate Measures to town, with many out-of-town musicians setting up around the plaza for open jam sessions.Fire Ridge, which won the Arizona State Bluegrass Championship this past November, will play for 45 minutes before the street dance.John Nielson, the event chairman, said the festival draws about 70 percent of its crowd from the Prescott area and 30 percent from around the country. He said he is expecting 5,000 to 7,000 people for the weekend. "We've got a very good sound system for acoustic music. It takes a lot of talent to do acoustic music compared to just electric," Nielson said. Organizers have reserved open camping space at Mile High Middle School, which will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis for $15 a night. "It's a great community event. Even if bluegrass isn't your forte in music, it is a fun event. It's really great to see bands that have their kids in the band play instruments, and get up there and play and sing. They're very talented; it's just amazing," Nielson said, adding that the event committee brings new acts every year. This year, International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame members Randy Waller and the Country Gentlemen close out the festivities on Saturday and Sunday. The Country Gentlemen have entertained audiences since 1957, moving to the forefront of the genre as one of the first bluegrass bands marketed to a non-rural audience, according to the band's Web site. The Kirby Knob Boys have performed a repertoire during the past 16 years that includes gospel, vintage country and material outside the typical realm of bluegrass.Elliot's Ramblers is an Albuquerque-based ensemble with an international reputation, performing originals that have made them favorites at bluegrass festivals around the Southwest.The members of Palmer Divide hail from around the country but have their home in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, where they write "all-new original bluegrass music."Desperate Measures started out as a gathering of friends sharing a common passion for high-energy, old-time string band music. They draw inspiration from contemporary bands like the Carter Family, the Deseret String Band and The Reeltime Travelers, according to their Web site. The event starts Saturday with the opening ceremony at 10:30 a.m.