Bluegrass in Frankfort

More than 20 national and regional bluegrass bands will perform on two stages during the Frankfort Bluegrass Festival, Saturday and Sunday. The HillBenders will play at 1:05 and 9:25 p.m. Saturday with band members Mark Cassidy, banjo; Gary Rea, bass; Nolan Lawrence, mandolin; Jim Rea, guitar; and Chad Graves, dobro.

The ninth annual Frankfort Bluegrass Festival this weekend will feature more than 20 national and regional bluegrass bands on two stages.

The Briedert Green Stage and Prairie Park Stage will remain active from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Grass seating is plentiful, and event organizers encourage people to bring blankets and lawn chairs.

The free family-friendly event is held on Breidert Green at Kansas and Oak streets in downtown Frankfort. The event also features jamming tents, a kids tent and activities area, workshops and food and craft vendors.

The industry has spoken and the rich sound of bluegrass music has catapulted Frankfort into the global spotlight, according to event organizers. The International Bluegrass Music Association proclaimed Frankfort Bluegrass on the Green the 2018 Event of the Year during its awards ceremony in Raleigh, N.C. this past September.

One year removed from the praise, the organizing committee is not resting on its laurels, but rather, hustling to top last year’s award-winning event and rallying volunteers for another successful undertaking.

“Every year we hold ourselves to a higher standard which explains how we get such a talented lineup of musicians to perform, as well as fans from all 50 states,” said April Jackson, a founding member and hospitality coordinator. “Event of the Year recognition implies we are becoming the artists’ choice and that raises the level of excellence for everyone.”

“Every year is better and better and it’s a credit all our volunteers and sponsors,” said Jennifer Wonnell, a volunteer coordinator.

This year’s fest welcomes Grammy and International Bluegrass Music Association award winning pacesetters to up-and-coming talent.

The HillBenders have been making records and touring around the U.S. for more than 10 years. They will play at 1:05 p.m. Saturday on the Prairie Park Stage and at 9:25 p.m. on the Breidert Green Stage.

The HillBenders, from the Ozarkian hills, have a bluegrass meets rock and roll sound. Band members are Mark Cassidy, banjo; Gary Rea, bass; Nolan Lawrence, mandolin; Jim Rea, guitar; and Chad Graves, dobro.

“We have a vast array of influences,” Rea said. “Shared heroes include Del McCoury and Steely Dan. Our banjo player grew up on rap music, our mandolin player studied opera and came from Texas singer songwriter traditions, our bass player toured with the Grateful Dead and our dobro player grew up in traditional country and bluegrass.”

Fest goers can expect, “High energy acoustic music, lots of original music and fun covers,” Rea said.

And the HillBenders are no strangers to the area.

“We love Frankfort,” Rea said. “We have been here several times throughout our 10 year career. This is one of the best bluegrass events in the country and it’s free. Please enjoy the fest and participate in any of the efforts to keep it free.”

Other bands throughout the two-day fest include the John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band, Special Consensus, Blue Highway, Miles Over Mountains, Roland White, Junior Sisk, Nu-Blu, Chris Jones and the Night Drivers, Barefoot Movement, Head for the Hills Bluegrass Experience and Breaking Grass. Also in the lineup are Henhouse Prowlers, The Grateful String Band, River Valley Rangers, Miles Over Mountains, Fox Crossing String Band, Truman’s Ridge, Anderlik Otto and Church, Homestretch Ride, Dyer Switch Band and Georgia Rae Family Band.

Put on solely by volunteers, the Frankfort Bluegrass Festival’s mission is to promote the preservation and education of bluegrass music.

For more information and a full schedule, visit

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