Meadville Tribune

January 17, 2014

This weekend's Bluegrass Festival dedicated to one of its late founders

Meadville Tribune

VERNON TOWNSHIP — Meadville Medical Center’s Hospice of Crawford County dedicates this weekend’s 29th annual Winter Blues Bluegrass Festival to John Brown, who passed away Jan. 6.

The Hospice will honor Brown for his years of dedication to the community as minister, musician, author, pastoral counselor, troubadour, founder of Hospice of Crawford County and one of the founders of the Bluegrass Festival.

The event, which is free and open to the public, begins today at 7 p.m. and goes to midnight at Days Inn, Vernon Township, with more than 20 bands playing throughout the weekend. On Saturday, the music begins at 1 p.m. and continues until midnight. Sunday will feature gospel music from 10 a.m. to noon. This festival benefits the Hospice of Crawford County benevolent fund.

The festival started with four bands at the Woodcock Township Building. Those present included Brown, Sandy and Denny Emig, and Howard Wells. After several years of growing attendance, they realized they had outgrown the township building and began their search for a larger venue. Brown approached the manager of Days Inn and promised that if he was willing to take on this event, the Bluegrass Festival would grow to fill Days Inn within two years.

Since 1985, Days Inn has been filled to capacity on the bluegrass weekend. Twenty or more bands have played each year and most spend the weekend in the hotel. The Emigs played in their own bluegrass band and helped manage the event with Brown until Denny Emig passed away. Sandy and Brown continued the event.

The festival continues to be free and open to the public. As the years went by, Sandy remarried and she and her husband, Terry Mahoney, continued to organize the event, with Mahoney becoming the emcee. The event is now coordinated by Mike Berry, a bluegrass musician himself.

In the early years, between $1,000 to $2,500 was raised at each festival. In 2012, $3,700 was raised with donations and raffles of 50/50, two donated quilts and a guitar. Over the last 28 years, more than $37,500 has been raised with the money going directly to Hospice patients and families.

This year’s event includes three 50/50 raffles throughout the weekend. There will also be three handmade quilts that will be raffled off.