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15th annual Hart Pumpkin Festival will feature bluegrass music

Posted Saturday, September 27, 2008

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Bear Creek, NC - The Bluegrass Experience and Al Batten and the Bluegrass Reunion, two legendary bluegrass bands will be performing this weekend at the 15th annual Pumpkin Festival at Hart's Pumpkin Farm. Both groups have local fan bases and a large following, according to farm owner Duane Hart.

Hitting the stage at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, will be The Bluegrass Experience, which is in its 37th year of performing with original members lead singer and guitarist, Tommy Edwards; Thomas "Snuffy" Smith playing the acoustic bass and "Fiddlin' Al" McCanless. Banjoist Stan Brown and mandolinist Michael Aldridge joined the band after the passing of founders Paul Beane and Donald Beane Sr. At times former member multi-instrumentalist Keith Thomas also appears with the band.

Among the band's recognitions are the World's Championship Bluegrass Band title at the Union Grove Fiddler's Convention in 1972; extensive touring throughout the Southeast and major music festivals in Finland in 1975 and Northern Ireland in 2007. The group has recorded four albums and has had some selected for three compilation albums. Edwards has three solo recordings and has had songs included in three other compilations. The band's hallmarks are its virtuoso musicianship, vocal expertise and high-energy performance style.

Al Batten and the Bluegrass Reunion, which also touts more than 30 years of experience, will be providing the bluegrass gospel on the main stage Sunday, Sept. 28, at 1 p.m. Long a mainstay of regional bluegrass festivals, they have done several recordings as well, including a highly regarded bluegrass gospel disc. Longtime members of the group include Al Batten, who is not only a fine banjoist but is an engaging emcee who has a winning way with humorous novelty songs. Guitarist Dave Turnage and bassist Philroy Patterson have anchored the group for many years. Recent additions include Mike Aldridge, who also plays with the Bluegrass Experience, fiddler Johnny Ridge, late of the Bass Mountain Boys.

Other events Saturday include the lawn and garden tractor pull at 10 a.m.; Little Miss Pumpkin and Pumpkin Princess Contest at 11 a.m.; mule pull at 3 p.m.; Carolina Antique Tractor Pull Association (CATPA) Tractor Pull at 5 p.m. Sunday's highlights will include a mud sling at 2 p.m. and cloggers performing between music sets on center stage.

Activities for children both days will include a rock climbing wall, mechanical bull, petting zoo, moon bounce, pony rides, toy tractor pull, pumpkin sling shot, pumpkin putt-putt, special music just for kids and a puppet show. Traditional handicrafts include soap-making, molasses-making, grinding corn meal, apple cider-making, a real working saw mill, hit-and-miss engines, pottery throwing, basket weaving and wagon rides.

A wide variety of food vendors will be offering a variety of tasty treats including pumpkin pies, barbecue, hot dogs, pinto beans, homemade ice cream, funnel cakes and other items.

Gates open Friday night at 6 p.m.; Saturday at 10 a.m. and Sunday at noon. Admission is $6 for most folks, with children under six and seniors over 65, admission is $1. Weekend passes are available at the gate for $12.

The farm is located at885 Meroney Church Road, Bear Creek.

For more information contact Hart's Pumpkin Farm at (919) 837-5363.

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