Wednesday, March 9, 2011

RenoFest - Hartsville, SC - March 25 - 27

 The City of Hartsville, SC and the Hartsville Downtown Development will present the fourteenth annual RenoFest, honoring the memory of Don Reno, at the Center Theater in Hartsville from March 25 - 27, 2011. Headlining this year's festival will be The Boxcars, the new and highly regarded band fronted by Adam Steffey and the Kenny & Amanda Smith Band, one of the most melodic bluegrass bands touring today.  Ronnie Reno & The Reno Tradition, featuring the son of Don Reno, will also be featured as well as Lonesome Meadow, winner of last year's band contest.  One of the standout features of RenoFest continues to be the annual band, banjo, and guitar contests.  The winner of each year's band contest winning a paid slot at the next year's festival plus a cash award. 

 The Center Theater

The Center Theater is a restored Art Deco movie theater which served as a movie theater in Hartsville for some time before broadening itself to offer live performances, too.  It provides the performance venue for RenoFest, although some activities take place outside the theater, including a "Downtown Hoedown, BBQ Sale, and Free Concert" in Burry Park on Friday evening. Check the schedule for further details.  On Sunday there's a gospel sing at Wesley United Methodist Church downtown.  Russ and Rob Jordan founded RenoFest in 1998.  In 2002 the Jordans turned the festival over to the Hartsville Downtown Development Association, which now promotes the event under the direction of executive director Lenora Lefew and local attorney Marty Driggers. The Jordan borthers continue to produce the event, which was named South Carolina's Event of the Year by the South Carolina Festival Association in 2006. Darlington County, where Hartsville is located is also the home of NASCAR's Darlington Raceway. The nearby Raceway Museum is open daily (small admission fee), providing a good alternative activity for bluegrassers in Hartsville for RenoFest. 

Ronnie Reno & the Reno Tradition
 Promo Photo from Reno Web Site

Ronnie Reno, son of the great banjo innovator Don Reno, after whom RenoFest is named, toured with his Dad as a young man and then spent nine years on the road with the Merle Haggard before returning to bluegrass with his father, who died in 1984.  He later toured with his brothers and then Ronnie Reno and the Reno Tradition. Meanwhile, he has established himself as a media innovator, developing and marketing Blue Highway Television, which showcases bluegrass on RFD-TV.  Banjo player Mike Scott is a contemporary banjo master who plays  Reno style as well as polished Scruggs style.  

Ronnie Reno
 Promo Photo from Reno Web Site

Here's a video clip of Ronnie Reno & The Reno Tradition from RenoFest 2008 recorded by ncfatcat.

The Boxcars
 Photo by Dean Hoffmeyer

In The Boxcars, Adam Steffey has brought together a band whose members are all stars in their own right who complement each other to form a top-shelf bluegrass band.  Combining the traditional sound Steffey loves with excellent new material, especially songs by singer/songwriter Keith Garrett, The Boxcars, while relatively new, have a seasoned sound and the kind of playful vibe which suggests a group having a great time just making music together.

Adam Steffey

Keith Garrett

Ron Stewart

John Bowman

Harold Nixon

Kenny & Amanda Smith

Amanda Smith has one of sweetest, truest voices in bluegrass, while her husband Kenny remains at or near the top of bluegrass flat pickers.  Kenny is the twice named IBMA guitar player of the year, while the band was named Emerging Artist in 2003.  They have surrounded themselves with a trio of attractive young players who work together with Kenny and Amanda to present their singing and playing along with enjoyable and lively band patter.  

Amanda Smith

Kenny Smith

Pacific Time - Video

For sheer musicality, The Kenny and Amanda Smith Band is one you don't want to miss.

Band, Guitar, and Banjo Contests

RenoFest is known for the quality and importance of the three contests taking place annually at the festival. The winning band wins a slot in the Lineup of the following year's festival as well as a cash prize.  Last year's winner was Lonesome Meadow from Ohio.  Winners of the guitar and banjo contests recive high quality instruments with cash prizes for 2nd and 3rd place.  Last year's guitar winner was hot picking Carl Miner, now playing guitar with the alt. bluegrass band The Greencards.  Young Zeb Snyder was runner up.  Rules and applications can be found here.  Handicappers seeking to see fine, young pickers on their way up can enjoy seeing them at RenoFest, which also gives regional players an opportunity to step up. Contests are open to anyone except previous winners and musicians booked for paid performances at RenoFest in the year they wish to compete.

2010 Guitar Winner - Carl Miner

Advance full-festival tickets cost $35.00. An order form may be downloaded here.  For additional information about RenoFest call (888) 427-8720.  Additional information about lodging, available eating places and provisions for RVers can be found here.  Here's a map of the area you can use to provide  yourself with directions.

We have not previously attended RenoFest, so it's difficult to assess the vibe or get a real sense of the theater. We've heard good things and are looking forward to attending this event for the first time. Hope to see you there.