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Bluegrass Concert in the Park Kicks Off Blueberry Festival - April 15, 2015
Submitted by Kendal Rogers

This year's Texas Blueberry Festival gets an early start with a new Friday night concert, the Blueberry Bluegrass Concert in the Park, from 5 to 10 p.m. June 12 at Banita Creek Park North in Nacogdoches. Rex Perry Autoplex is sponsoring the family-friendly event that will feature five musical acts: The Steve Hartz Family Band, The Coursey Family Band, The Blake Brothers Bluegrass Band, The Bottom Dollar String Band and Catahoula Drive.

"The Chamber has been looking for ways to make the Texas Blueberry Festival more of a weekend-long event," said Scott Waller, Blueberry Bluegrass Concert in the Park committee member. "We wanted to create a free, family-friendly event for Friday that would attract more people to spend the night, to stay in our hotels, eat in our wonderful restaurants and shop in our great stores. Bluegrass is such a wonderful genre of music; you just have to smile and tap your toes when you listen. We know there is a huge following in East Texas and we are hoping they all turn out for this event."

When it came time to book the Blueberry Bluegrass Concert in the park, the Chamber enlisted the help of Cowboy and Sara Barrett, the husband-and-wife duo who host the SandyLand Bluegrass Festival twice a year in Nacogdoches County.

"The first thing we thought of was to call Cowboy," said Scarlett Sloane, Blueberry Bluegrass Concert in the Park committee member. "He was happy to share his extensive knowledge and contacts with musicians in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. He has helped us put together a fantastic lineup."

The concert starts at 5 p.m. with a local act, the Steve Hartz Family Band, with Old Time String Shop proprietor Steve Hartz, his wife Sheryl and their daughter Sidney Rose. The Coursey Family Band, a three-generation band from North Texas that features a 13-year old fiddle player and a 7-year-old singer/guitarist, performs at 6 p.m. The Blake Brothers Bluegrass Band, a high-energy bluegrass group from Shreveport, performs at 7 p.m., and The Bottom Dollar String Band, a contemporary bluegrass band from Austin, performs at 8 p.m. The headliner, Cataholoua Drive, takes the stage at 9 p.m. This Pineville, La. four-piece is looking to the future of bluegrass music while keeping true to tradition, and was a finalist in the 2014 Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of American Band Contest.

"We are excited about our talent line-up," said Jimmy Davis, Blueberry Bluegrass Concert in the Park committee member. "We wanted to include local musicians and create opportunity for new bands from Texas and Louisiana."

First Baptist Church is partnering with concert organizers to provide convenient and accessible parking for the event.

"Parking for any live event can be a challenge," said Rikki Leigh Willoughby, Blueberry Bluegrass Concert in the Park committee member. "First Baptist Church is allowing folks to park in both of its lots on North Street and along Pearl Street. We plan to use the new parking lot on Pearl Street for handicap and seniors."

The concert will also feature food vendors and lots of water, and organizers encourage music fans to bring blankets and lawn chairs to enjoy the wide-open spaces in the park. The event is family-friendly, so no coolers or alcohol will be allowed in the park.

"Banita Creek Park North is the perfect venue for an outdoor concert like this," said Sarah O'Brien, Blueberry Bluegrass Concert in the Park committee member. "There's plenty of room for everyone to spread out and for the kids to play."

Chamber organizers are excited about growing the Blueberry Bluegrass Concert in the Park into an annual event and are grateful for the enthusiastic partners that make the concert possible, especially the City of Nacogdoches, First Baptist Church and of course our generous sponsor, Rex Perry Autoplex.

"We knew going in that we needed to put together a budget that included paying for good talent, wide-reaching publicity, portable restrooms, sound, lights, all that stuff," said Angela Wiederhold, Blueberry Bluegrass Concert in the Park committee member. "We knew we needed a sponsor, and Rex Perry Autoplex jumped on board. Rex really liked the idea of a free, family-friendly event, and he's really excited to do this for Nacogdoches and all of East Texas."

The Texas Blueberry Festival presented by Brookshire Brothers continues Saturday with a full day of activities in downtown Nacogdoches, including a blueberry pancake breakfast, competitions and more live entertainment. For more information, visit tbf.nacogdoches.org/ or call 936-560-5533.

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