Bluegrass Island 2017

Blue Skies. Blue Water. Bluegrass.

Rhonda Vincent & The Rage closing out Day 3 of the 4-day 2017 Outer Banks Bluegrass Island Festival, Manteo, North Carolina.


“The heavy-hitting pioneering & groundbreaking history; the beaches; the lighthouses; and the swashbuckling maritime vibe of North Carolina’s Outer Bank were enthralling & educational. But even they, and if you’ll pardon the oh-so pathetic pun, played a very distant second fiddle to the 4 days of foot tappin’ & VIP mingling that was the Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival at Manteo’s Roanoke Island Festival Park, known for 4 days every year as Bluegrass Island.”

Bluegrass Island 2017

We arrived at North Carolina’s Outer Banks late in the afternoon of Day 7 of our 33-day Epic US Road Trip 2017. Mercifully, and with 1,300-plus miles already on the clock, we weren’t planning on going anywhere for a while. At least not for 4 days. Four days of hard-drivin’ foot-tappin’ bluegrass. Four days of mountain music by the sea on Bluegrass Island.

ROANOKE ISLAND FESTIVAL PARK || Blue skies? Check. Blue water? Check. Bluegrass? Oh yes! The Pavilion Outdoor Theatre of Roanoke Island Festival Park, a.k.a. Bluegrass Island. Day 3.

October 6, 2017.Location, location, location. The awesome setting for the annual Outer Banks Bluegrass Island Festival is Roanoke Island Festival Park on a small island offshore of quaint Manteo, the largest settlement on Outer Banks’ Roanoke Island (it’s a small island off a small island). Already renowned as a location where Elizabethan era lovers can take in a real-life recreation of everyday life in an early American colony, the performance centre of the 25-acre Festival Park is the Pavilion Outdoor Theatre, a lawn-style amphitheatre with a truly stunning backdrop of the waters of Roanoke Sound and a 3,800 sq.ft. covered stage that plays host to the cream of bluegrass music musicians for the 4 days a year the park assumes the title of Bluegrass Island. Fast becoming a fan & performer favourite on the busy bluegrass festival circuit, as a venue it’s hard to beat.

Festivals have been central to bluegrass music since the 1960s. Many Americans with enough leisure time, pocket money, and good cars and RVs, drawn on by the lure of a great Interstate highway system, hit the road in search of their music. During the good-weather months, one can almost always find a bluegrass festival within driving distance, in almost all parts of the country.

– Reproduced from text on display in the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Kentucky, visited – along with the Old Homeplace in Rosine, Kentucky, the birthplace of the Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe – on Day 32 of our 36-day Epic US Road Trip 2016.

DOYLE LAWSON – DAY 1 || Backstage. October 4, 2017.

Outer Banks
North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a narrow and fragile 320-kilometre-long (200 mile) string of barrier islands/sandbars that both separate & shelter the US mainland in the west from the vast & blustery expanse of the Atlantic Ocean in the east, is a major regional tourist draw. This vacation rental haven is a beach lovers nirvana, a well-established tourist magnet where there’s a refreshing dearth of big box stores or chain eateries, a place where sand, sea (and sea breezes), wooden beach houses, laid-back beach towns, historic lighthouses, flip-flops, fishing, sea food and a swashbuckling maritime vibe all dominate. History, too, and heavy-hitting history at that: The disappearance of 115 colonists at Roanoke Island’s late 1580s Lost Colony, Europe’s very first attempt to established a settlement in the New World, is still to this day one of America’s greatest unsolved mysteries; and man first flew here when, in December 1903 at Bodie Island’s Kill Devil Hills, the Age of Flight took off when the Wright Brothers launched the world’s very first successful controlled flight of a powered heavier-than-air vehicle.

ALAN BIBEY & GRASSTOWNE – DAY 1 || Alan Bibey & Grasstowne on the afternoon of Day 1. October 4, 2017.

As enthralling & educational as the heavy-hitting pioneering & groundbreaking history, the beaches, the lighthouses and the swashbuckling maritime vibe of the Outer Bank were (& they were), even they, and if you’ll pardon the oh-so pathetic pun, played a very distant second fiddle to the 4 days of foot tappin’ & VIP mingling that was our Outer Banks Bluegrass Island Festival experience.

VIPS – DAY 4 || Backstage. October 7, 2017.

The 4 days of the Bluegrass Island Festival were easily one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Bluegrass isn’t for everyone (I get that), and an all-encompassing 4-day festival of the music might even be balked at by many a bluegrass fan, but for us it was something beyond special, an indescribably amazing experience. We not only witnessed, from both off the stage and on it (we had free reign), some of the best music there is played by some of the most talented musicians alive, but we mingled with the artists, humble & approachable people I’ve admired from afar for over a decade now (Dad much longer), have streamed on YouTube, who I’ve had in my ears while I’ve travelled all over the world and who take up the bulk of the space on my iPod (& I’m even Facebook friends with some of them now… I tried to play it cool, to not appear too star-struck). That, y’all, is indeed beyond special, indescribably so.

SIDELINE – DAY 2 || Sideline at dusk on day 2. October 5, 2017.

THE GRASCALS – DAY 4 || Front row on Day 4 for The Grascals. October 7, 2017.

One of my favourite groups on the circuit, I was never going to be anywhere other than the front row for The Grascals as they opened Day 4. It all sounded very familiar. Post Bluegrass Island, we busted a gut in driving almost 2,000 miles over the course of 6 days to see The Grascals again a week later performing at the more intimate 1-day A Lester Flatt Celebration in Sparta, Tennessee (where we saw more of the guys & gals of Flatt Lonesome, too).

RHONDA VINCENT & THE RAGE – DAY 3 || Rhonda Vincent, The Queen of Bluegrass, & her band The Rage closing out the festival on Day 3. October 6, 2017.

It was our second year in a row seeing The Rage in action having seen them in Galax, Virginia on Day 28 of last year’s 36-day Epic US Road Trip 2016.

Mingling at the Outer Banks Bluegrass Island Festival 2017. With Darrell Webb; Joe Mullins; Doyle Lawson; Josh Swift; Darin & Brooke Aldridge; Steve Dilling; Billy Strings; Eric & Leigh, The Gibson Brothers with Jesse Brock; Josh Williams; Chris Sexton; Charli Robertson; Kristin Scott Benson; Junior Sisk; Rhonda Vincent; Mickey Harris; Buddy Robertson; Hunter Berry; & Terry Eldredge.

A few more pictures from 4 days snooping around the Outer Banks Bluegrass Island Festival 2017 with a camera in hand.

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