Bluegrass event introduces lake to non-county fans

In its third year, Marion County Lake?s ?Bluegrass at the Lake? free concert attracted hundreds of music lovers from this part of the state.

According to Steven Hudson, lake and park director and concert co-organizer, about 350 to 400 people flowed in and out during different times of the day during the concert this past Saturday.

After occasionally checking the license plates in the parking lot, Hudson estimated 75 percent of the concert-goers were from outside Marion County.

The out-of-county visitors brought an increase in the number of campers and first-time visitors inquiring about camping rates. Hudson said he believes many of the newly exposed will return, bringing tourism money to Marion County.

?We want to draw people to the area,? Hudson said. ?The out-of county revenue helps us out.?

Festival patrons braved the triple-digit temperature to enjoy the live bluegrass recruited by talent organizer Rollin Schmidt. The bluegrass musician, who also works for Marion County as noxious weed and solid waste director, invited feature bands Rollin Biscuits, Folkholler, Timber Creek Band and Stranger Creek Band.

Folkholler returned to Marion Lake after winning the opportunity to play as a feature band. The band won first overall in the open stage performances in the afternoon at the 2009 festival.

Also returning was the Timber Creek Band. The quartet from the Wichita area played in 2009 as a feature band.

Formed by Gerry and Tracey Roberts of Moundridge and Tom Unruh of Sedgwick, Jammin Biscuits also returned for Saturday?s event.

Unlike last year, rain held off Saturday, allowing the entire concert to remain outdoors. In 2009 many performance were inside Lake Hall.

The bands where performing on a much-improved stage from the initial event in 2008. The upgrades included the addition of a canopy and improvements to the back drop.

Among the vendors was the Marion County Firefighters Association.

For the first time, ?Bluegrass at the Lake? shuttled visitors to and from the parking lot. Because of a limited number of handicapped-parking spaces, a lake patrol pickup with an attached trailer loaded with hay bails for seats, hauled concert goers and their chairs and gear from their parking spots to the venue near the swimming area.

Overall, Hudson thought the concert was a success.

?We certainly would like to have more though,? he said. ?People thought it was a good time and were pleased.?

Open to the ideas of providing the stage for private parties and family reunions, Hudson doesn?t foresee the immediate development of county sponsored entertainment events, because of cost.

The next event scheduled at the county lake is the fourth annual chili cook-off and lake wide garage sale Oct. 2. Hudson said attempts are being made to return a military band. The 2009 event had 14 contestants in the cook-off.

?There?s always plenty of food,? Hudson said.

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