22nd annual Big Muddy festival experiences exceptional turnout
Thespian Hall was packed with folk and bluegrass music enthusiasts during Friday's opening night of the Big Muddy Folk Festival. The performances lasted for over three hours. During the day Saturday, workshops featuring the artists, held hands-on training for individuals wanting to learn a certain instrument. A final performance was held Saturday night.
"This was one of the best years we have ever had," Festival Coordinator Kathy Barton said. "It's like this big wonderful party the Friends of Historic Boonville and the City get to put on every year."
Past festivals have featured Dave Para or the late Bob Dyer as the master of ceremonies, but recently local artist Merideth Ludwig has stepped up to the job.
Ludwig, portraying a character by the name of 'Tilley' from Nashville, brought laughter and enthusiasm to the audience. When festival organizer Para introduced her he said she had recently suffered a fire to her residence, a station wagon. This sort of comic relief was expanded on throughout the night.
"Meredith has really done a wonderful job these last few years," Barton said.
Every year Para and Barton hand pick the performers after hearing them in perform in person. Barton said they will be waiting for a performer to step off stage, and then they will ask them to come to the 'Big Muddy.'
During Friday's performance, Celtic harp player Eileen Gannon played a number of traditional Irish harp tunes as she opened the festival. She explained that in the Irish tradition, if a child were to go blind, they were taught to play the harp. Gannon's performance lasted around 30 minutes as she played an array of old to modern Celtic harp music.
Para and Barton were introduced to the stage by Ludwig with the audience shouting, 'howdy' three times. Para and Barton played an assortment of instruments from the guitar, banjo, hammer dulcimer, auto harp and an array of mouth juice harps.
After intermission the Wright family came on stage. The Wrights played gospel-style music and talked about their Texas home.
Notorious, a duo made up of Eden MacAdam and Larry Unger entertained with an assortment of traditional folk, original composition and eastern European-style music. MacAdam also included the audience in some of the music with the audience singing refrains and phrases.
At the end of the show, all of the performers returned to the stage together to perform the ending music. This has been a tradition during the length of the festival's 22 years of existance.
A dance was held at Turner Hall following the performance.
"Throughout the festival, the musicians worked well together," Barton said.
She also said more people from out of state, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska were traveling to see the festival.
"We feel so grateful to the town and Friends of Historic Boonville for allowing us to continue this every year," Barton ended. "This has been so wonderful."