The fifth annual Palatka Bluegrass Festival held at Rodeheaver Boys Ranch south of Palatka, FL will begin on Thursday, February 12th and run for three days. Another all-star production of the Adams and Anderson team, which now offers nine festivals a year, Palatka has emerged as the largest, and perhaps the best, of the winter festivals in Florida. The host organization, Rodeheaver Boys Ranch, decided a few years ago to hold a bluegrass festival as one of its major fund raising events. They have spared no expense in developing a spacious campground with water and electric hookups, hot showers and flush toilets, daily hot meals served in the Ranch’s dining room, a large area for vendors, plenty of the all-important porta-potties kept clean all weekend, and more. Their success has prompted the development of a second festival now held in October.
Rhonda Vincent & The Rage
Palatka this year presents first rate bands and some interesting early season looks at how they have changed during the annual musical chairs game December often brings to bluegrass bands. The most notable changes revolve around Rhonda Vincent’s decision to remake her band. She had replaced Kenny Ingram on banjo with Aaron McDaris, who comes to her band from The Grascals. Darrell Webb has also left and been replaced with Ben Helsen on lead and rhythm guitar who had been with Ricky Skaggs’ band. Ingram has joined the Larry Stephenson Band, where he replaces IBMA banjo player of the year Kristin Scott Benson, the new banjo picker with The Grascals. Webb has joined Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper. Alan Johnson has rejoined the Doyle Lawson aggregation on fiddle while lead singer and guitarist Darren Beachley has decided to leave. All these bands except for Cleveland’s will be performing at Palatka, giving audiences an opportunity to assess the effectiveness and impact of the changes. I was particularly happy to see the great Kenny Ingram catch on with Stephenson and Alan Johnson back on the road. Benson has also proven herself to be a first rate addition to The Grascals. Junior Sisk & Rambler’s Choice will be featuring a new mandolinist at Rodeheaver, replacing Chris Harris who has moved on.
Other bands appearing at Palatka this year will be:
Lorraine Jordan & Jerry Butler
When Rodeheaver officials decided to hold a bluegrass festival, they did their homework well and sought out the proven team of Norman Adams and Tony Anderson to organize, book, and promote the event. The result has filled the grounds and the tent from the first festival. Rodeheaver staff and residents are uniformly courteous and helpful. The sound by Gene Daniel and his crew is very high quality, and last year they installed a large TV screen about 2/3 of the way back in the tent to promote visibility. This crew knows how to put on a festival that pleases.