Branson Welcomes Bluegrass Winter Youth Festival
by Shelby Berry
Bluegrass music and Branson seem to have a symbiotic relationship, and they just fit together. It’s something about bluegrass, folk, Americana, and old-time music and the Branson area that make you feel at home and relaxed in the laid-back lifestyle of yesteryear.
Many people in the Branson area embrace these values and lifestyles, especially when raising our youth in this type of music and environment, making it the perfect fit for a bluegrass music festival.
Branson is nestled in the Ozark mountains and is a favorite family place to visit. From the Wild West-style Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede dinner attraction to Silver Dollar City and everything in between, adventure exists around every corner in Branson. There’s no better place to enjoy a youth music festival than at the Branson Event Center.
Hosted by Branson Academy for the Advancement of Music and Theatre, Ozark Mountain Music Association, Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars, and Greater Ozarks Bluegrass Society, the festival is December 11-12, 2021. It will include workshops, jams, live performances, square dancing, band scramble, and band coaching.
“We are hoping that our live performance on Sunday will be televised by the cowboy church as well,” said Wendy Wright of the Ozark Mountain Music Association.
According to Wendy, the festival was born out of the desire to preserve bluegrass music, specifically in today’s youth, by encouraging them and teaching them along the way. Wendy, the brainchild, and Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars president Larry Smith were driven by seeing young musicians grow out of their comfort zones through other events like this.
“The faculty at the Branson Bluegrass Winter Youth Festival is dedicated to cultivating and fostering the community of young artists who will preserve and perpetuate bluegrass music for the next generation. This festival is a greenhouse for young artists to blossom and connect with those who share their passion and drive. When interviewing these kids in the years to come, they will still be talking about the experiences they had here and how it influenced their music,” said Crystal McCool of the Ozark Mountain Music Association.
“Nothing like this has ever been done before! We have a terrific venue with a 500-seat theater donated to us by the city of Branson. We are all doing it for the kids. We hope it’ll be the biggest youth festival in the country! All performers are 21 and under, and we want to make it a premier festival for youth in the country. We are getting a great response from kids all over,” said Larry.
The festival features our Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars favorites like Ashlyn Smith, the Cotton Pickin Kids, Roller Family Bluegrass, and the Farnum Family Band.
“Our band Roller Family Bluegrass is so excited to participate in this youth festival! Last year was such a hard year for most people, so we are excited to bring joy through our music to others during the holiday season. We are thankful to the sponsors for putting this together. This festival will be an encouragement to both the players and listeners,” said Abby Roller.
With good music filling the air, young musicians can join in instrument workshops, square dancing, band scrambles, an instrument petting zoo, and even jam sessions.
Cotton Pickin Kids
While the festival will be featuring bluegrass youth as the artists, all ages are welcome to attend this two-day event. As an event run by four entirely non-profit organizations, this event truly is all about the artists and helping them reach their potential.
“Our family is excited to be involved in TBS and to participate in the Branson Bluegrass Winter Youth Festival. We will be there to serve as needed, along with many others making up the all-volunteer staff. Appointed as the TBS Regional Director for the Mid-America Region, I serve an area that includes Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. TBS currently has 64 of its 426 young members living in this region. As the dad of our family band, I cannot overemphasize the value of an event like this in their lives!” said Norm Farnum of the Farnum Family Band.
The Branson Bluegrass Winter Youth Festival will be offering free masks for those who would be more comfortable wearing one. The event held in a 35,000 square foot facility offers plenty of opportunities for social distancing.
“We will be encouraging any artists or attendees that have any symptoms of COVID to please not attend the event,” said Wendy. “We will give full refunds to anyone in those instances.”
Immerse yourself in good music, better company, and all things youth in bluegrass at the inaugural, and hopefully annual, Branson Bluegrass Winter Youth Festival. Two-day festival passes are $25, one-day passes are $15, and both are available for purchase in advance or at the event.
Artists are encouraged to come to the event and sign up there, even if they aren’t with a band. All are welcome to join in on this opportunity for bluegrass’ youth!
Buy your tickets for the festival in advance here.