Festival celebrates milestone

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By Chris Sardelli

The sounds of guitars, mandolins and harmonicas drifted through the air Saturday as people gathered to celebrate the 20th annual Carolina Legends festival.

The festival at Andrew Jackson State Park featured 11 bluegrass and blues bands, playing a variety of songs at the park's amphitheater. Music lovers set up lawn chairs and blankets around the stage to hear their favorite bands.

"We think it's going great and the kids are really enjoying it," said Leslie Plyer, who brought her children – Courtney, 2, and Kaden, 4 – to see the bands.

After watching one of the first bands, she and her family dined on hot dogs and hamburgers from some of the vendors near the parking lot.

Cory Cook, 32, of Lancaster, was excited to check out the bands, which included local favorites Trinity and Deeper Shade of Blue, as well as others from Columbia, such as Papa String Band and Bentz Kirby.

Cook's father plays in a bluegrass band, so he's always interested in checking out other bluegrass groups.

This time around, he brought his 10-month-old daughter, Kinsley, to enjoy the festivities.

"It's been pretty good," Cook said. "I'm sure she's enjoying it a lot."

Longtime bluegrass fan Bleeka Carnes, of Kershaw, settled into her lawn chair to enjoy the bands. Her favorite group was Trinity, though she was anxiously awaiting the evening performance of Southern Junction as well.

"I've enjoyed bluegrass for quite awhile," Carnes said. "I used to go to a lot of these kinds of festivals."

Attending the festival for the first time were Columbia residents Larry and Donna Metts. The couple drove to see the show and celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary.

"We thought we'd come up and check it out," Larry Metts said. "So far, it's been good."

Brett Mello, who sings vocals and plays guitar for the seven-member Papa String Band, was excited to attend the festival for the third time and play crowd favorites like "Picken 'em up and Puttin 'em Down."

"We love coming out here," Mello said. "They've added a lot of new acts this time, and we dig them."

Laura Ledford, interpretive ranger at the park, said it was good to see a large number of people attend the festival.

"I'm really happy with everybody that did come out," Ledford said. "There were a lot more people in the morning than we had expected."

Christina Chastain, an organizer and program director for the Lancaster County Council of the Arts, said the turnout midday Saturday was very good, considering rain showers had forced Friday's evening performances inside a shelter and made the ground soggy for Saturday's crowd.

Chastain said the money collected from admission covered expenses for the festival and the individual bands. Any remaining money would go to art education programs with Lancaster County schools or through the arts council.

Music workshops, where concert-goers could meet with members of their favorite bands and learn techniques on various instruments, were also featured at the festival.

Randy Lucas, from Randy Lucas and the Cosmic Possums, held both guitar and banjo workshops, while the Papa String Band held the Kid's Musical Workshop.

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416