In Iowa’s oldest state park, Backbone State Park, the tune of a fiddle was heard all the way from the campground site. What could it have been? Well, it was the Backbone Bluegrass Festival, and it’s just around the corner in Clayton County by Strawberry Point! Every year on the last weekend of July, Backbone State Park hosts three days of live entertainment for the whole family to enjoy. The festival features multiple bluegrass groups and families, offering a wide variety of bluegrass sound in this scenic venue. Whether you love music, or haven’t heard it before, all are welcome to come and experience the genre that is bluegrass!
One afternoon, I was laying in an open field in Backbone when I heard the playful tune of the fiddle in the distance. I had to find out where it was coming from, so I left the park and saw a huge line of cars, RVs and trailers all headed to one destination; the campgrounds. I couldn’t hide my curiosity any longer; I had to see what was going on! As I set foot on the campgrounds, I understood what the excitement was all about; the Backbone Bluegrass Festival had started! A weekend of fun, family, and bluegrass music was back once again!
Once I was past the gate, I following the crowd of bluegrass lovers to the stage, where the performers were providing upbeat music for spectators to sing along and dance to. The deep string bass had now joined the fiddle’s melody, and everybody applauded the fiddle soloist for a beautiful performance. A short and sweet puck of a mandolin then joined the melody as well, and more and more people were gathering to dance to the beat. Families were dancing together, children were jumping to the music and trying to follow their parent’s dance moves, and couples danced swaying 2-steps. Seeing everybody dance made me get up and join them, and I danced with a great group of bluegrass lovers who were very kind and welcoming. The warm air of the summer afternoon filled my lungs and kept me moving as long as my legs could let me. As I danced with the crowd, I saw a few jam circles were formed around the stage of people who brought their own string instruments to make bluegrass music with family and friends. They were fun to listen to, and I gained a greater appreciation for the genre; there was no way I would ever be able to play as well as anyone in a jam circle! I was never able to strum a correct chord from the metal strings of a guitar, let alone pluck the strings of a banjo the way the jammers were! I kept dancing with the crowd to the upbeat music that afternoon, listening to the playful tunes of bluegrass.
After an afternoon of dancing, I knew my feet were begging for a break. I sat at a bench close to the stage, and listened to the evening performers while children ran around playing tag. I had never listened to bluegrass before, and I was happy I decided to follow the fiddle to the festival. The Backbone Bluegrass Festival is a great experience for anyone who loves bluegrass, or someone who wants to listen to a genre of music they’d never heard before!
Written by Jayna Felder | Photo credit to Backbone Bluegrass