Dr. Ralph Stanley

The 23rd annual Carter County Shrine Club Bluegrass Festival kicks off Thursday in Olive Hill.

The festival is located at the Shrine Club Park behind Olive Hill Elementary.

Shrine Club President Jack Lowe is expecting all 168 camper spots to be full before the music begins on Thursday.

This year's biggest draw is Dr. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys.  Stanley recently announced that this is his last year on tour.

Lowe said people from across the country and as far away as Australia have called for tickets to see Stanley on his final tour.

Although there is a 40-50 percent chance of rain for the festival, Lowe said all the campers say it's going to be good bluegrass weather.

As in previous years, no glass bottles or four- wheelers are allowed. Pets must be on a leash and golf carts and side by sides are allowed.

New to the festival this year is Pure Pit BBQ. They will offer traditional BBQ fare in addition to the Shrine Club booth's "stick to your ribs" food like soup beans, fried potatoes and corn bread.

Another vendor, specializing in home cooked breakfast food will also join this year's vendors.

Songwriter Bill Castle has volunteered at the festival since its beginning. He says the focus on traditional music draws a traditional crowd.

“Don Rigsby, The Seldom Scene, James King and Lou Reid, those guys have been around a long time,” Castle said. “Then you have Dave Adkins and Republik Steele and they have more of a newgrass sound.”

Lowe calls Castle a “walking bluegrass trivia expert” who makes sure the bands are on stage on time.

The festival is an event that many look forward to all year because it promises good music and good stories.

Tickets are $20 for Thursday night, $35 for Friday or Saturday, or $70 for the weekend. Nightly and weekend passes are available at the gate.

Leeann Akers can be reached at lakers@journal-times.com or by phone at 474-5101.

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