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Bluegrass festival starts today

Fans of pluckin’ and pickin’ and grinnin’ will have their fill this weekend as the third annual Covington Bluegrass Festival comes to the Covington Center Arena.

The festival starts today and continues through Saturday, offering a wide variety of musical talents from the uniquely Southern genre of bluegrass music.

“This is definitely a growing event for us,” said Tony Wells, manager of the Covington Center Arena. “I think it has the potential to be huge, but it’s going to take some time to grow. This is our third year and we’ve gotten a lot of interest and we’ve brought in several acts that have major followings. We expect people from all over the Southeast to visit here and provide a positive impact for the county.”

The festival starts tonight at 6:30 p.m. and will feature an all-Gospel schedule of music. Friday night’s show time begins at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday will have times at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. In addition, there is an open stage from 10 a.m. until noon Friday and Saturday.

Tickets are $12 for today only, $14 for Friday only, $15 for Saturday only or $40 for a three-day pass. Patrons 12 and under will be admitted free.

“This is great family-friendly music,” Wells said. “Nobody will ever be embarrassed at a bluegrass festival.”

Wednesday, Wells said that several motor home owners were already setting up camp in the arena parking lots. The arena has 76 RV hook-ups and the Kiwanis Building has 18 more — a three-day RV parking pass is $65.

“When I first started doing this event, someone told me that if we could get 400 RV hook-ups, that we’d be able to fill them all,” he said. “As far as the hook-ups we have now, we’ve already got about half of them booked. Several of the motor homes are already here because they want to get the best parking spaces.”

The line-up for this year’s festival features several acts that are making repeat visits to the bluegrass festival. Performers, as well as their show days, are: The Gary Waldrep Band (Friday- Saturday), Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road (Friday-Saturday), The Sullivan Family (today), The Doerfel Family (today-Saturday), The Southern Gentlemen (Friday-Saturday), The Turman Family (today-Saturday), The Chestangs (today), Three C’s Gospel (Saturday) and The Bush Family (today-Saturday). The festival’s emcee is Bluegrass Willie.

Wells said that the arena is a useful venue for this festival because it allows for an indoor concert even during the winter months.

“Most bluegrass festivals are outside, so that’s why we like to have it in the winter,” Wells said. “It allows these groups to have a festival they can perform at this time of year, since it’s too cold to hold anything outdoors. (The groups) love it here; they love the facility. Some of them have been here since the beginning, like the Doerfel family. We’ve had the chance to watch their kids grow up each year, and they’re almost like a part of our family now too.”

No pets, drugs or alcohol are permitted in the arena at any time during the festival. There will be some stadium seating available and patrons are welcome to bring lawn chairs.

“We’re hoping that a lot of local people come out and give bluegrass music a try,” Wells said. “We feel like they’ll fall in love with it.”