Mountain Crest Park to host bluegrass festival

Get out your guitar picks, and resin up your bow. Fiddlin at Mountain Crest, a bluegrass festival, is planned from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Mountain Crest Park’s Pavilion B, 4701 N. Durango Drive.

Pavilion B is on the Durango Drive side of the park. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call 702-455-1905.

The advertising budget was zero, so getting the word out is mostly via email or Internet. Grand Ole Opry alumna Vera Vann-Wilson and some fellow players have committed to being there. Old Dave Carrol and the Street Band and the Nevada Old-time Fiddlers Association also plan to participate.

“They’ll be there en masse,” said association organizer Paul DePatta.

The email approach must be working. So many groups wanted to be a part of it that the festival, originally planned to wrap up at 3 p.m., was extended another two hours.

“So far we are keeping away from the ‘money’ word, and that in itself is a fun challenge,” said DePatta.

Jim Damele, who has a bluegrass group called the Red Rock Ramblers, and DePatta have been kicking around the idea for a while. Both are musicians in Mountain Crest, a loose-knit group of bluegrass musicians who meet at the park’s community center each week to pluck and play folk and country songs in a jam session.

“We took a drive out to the wildlife refuge looking for sheep, and we were just kind of talking about what we were thinking and our vision,” DePatta said. “We were agreeing on what we were looking for.”

What they were looking for was an opportunity for some of the people who participate in the jam session to be there, while letting others jam with them, bringing the community into the picture.

Once bands were approached to see if there was interest, the two organizers contacted Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown’s office, as he had helped them in the past. Sue Baker, Brown’s liaison, connected them with Richard Muelle, who runs the Mountain Crest Community Center.

“We spoke with him and basically told him all we needed was a place to plug in and play,” DePatta said.

He said the county was very accommodating, giving them the space free and providing a generator.

“It’s wonderful,” Brown said. “The group was having a difficult time finding a place to practice, and we found them room at Mountain Crest. And now it’s turned into a community event where people can come by and jam, and I think this is the logical next step, to take it out to the broader community. The biggest thing is always when you introduce an event like this to (a park), we want to make sure that it’s neighborhood-friendly as far as the hours, the noise level, parking, all those things.”

If Fiddlin at Mountain Crest draws 200 or 300 people, DePatta said he’ll be happy. He said he wants to keep it small, just a few bands, so things don’t get out of hand.

“This is our first time,” he said. “We want to do it right.”

Vann-Wilson said the best-run bluegrass festivals have a nice location where the audience can bring a blanket and sit on grass and enjoy good music. She’s been promoting the event through her connections.

“I’ve gotten hold of two groups in St. George (Utah) who are delighted to come down,” she said. “They know there’s no money in it, but they want to help support (us).”

She said the bluegrass movement would have larger audiences if it was better publicized.

“You’ll have pockets of people who say, ‘I didn’t know there was anything going on,’ ” Vann-Wilson said.

Pavilion B will provide cover for roughly 200 people, said DePatta, should Las Vegas experience some of its notorious summer temperatures in April.

The organizers hope the event gains momentum and blossoms into something akin to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. That one has grown into a major festival and is now a three-day event featuring Emmylou Harris.

Some events are big affairs. Merle-
Fest on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, N.C., for example, can draw 20,000 attendees.

DePatta said most music festivals of that type see people coming from all over to camp on the grounds or nearby. After the stage goes dark, those campers pull out their own guitars and banjos and jam “from the time it gets dark to who knows when. It gets pretty fun, and that’s what we hope to occur, have a festival that will last a day or two.”

He said that day was a ways off, but that Las Vegas was a good place for a wide variety of music genres.

He said the state’s 150th anniversary was coming up, a perfect tie-in with a bluegrass festival. DePatta said if it’s successful, he’d like to make it an annual event.

Slated performers include: a husband-and-wife duo from Southern Utah called Stillhouse Road; the Sage Brush String Band, of which DePatta is a member; Frequent Flyers, who plan what they called a Foggy Mountain Breakdown; Just for Fun; and Red Rock Ramblers.

“We are all getting excited and practicing our tunes,” DePatta said. “One of my favorite songs is ‘Hop High Ladies,’ which has a … verse that says, ‘I don’t mind the weather if the wind don’t blow.’ … We have a lot of Western heritage here, a ton of it. Nevada is the Old West. And this is the indigenous music of the Old West.”

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 702-387-2949.

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