We'd heard about RenoFest but had never had a chance to fit it into our schedule before. Frankly, I was a little put off by the thought of spending two days seeing band and instrument contests for the opportunity to watch and hear a couple of national bands and some others I hadn't heard of. Big Mistake! Lesson Learned! Hartsville is a lovely smallish town in the PeeDee region of South Carolina, surrounded by farms and convenient to Lee State Park, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935. The Park is small, but quiet and pleasant, a good place for RVers to stop for this early Spring festival. Those wishing extensive jamming, however, should consider staying at the The Landmark Inn in town, or one of the other local hotels suggested in the festival web site. RenoFest is simply one of the best run small festivals we've ever attended: fan friendly, welcoming, comfortable, great sound, and, for those interested in up-and-coming bluegrass pickers and bands, one of the best places to go.
I had dreaded the thought of sitting through a bunch of mediocre bands as well as both the guitar and banjo contests. My concern was a waste of my worrying energy. All three contests proceeded like clockwork, on time and fast moving, while the music from the bands was often better better than you see with many of the local bands at festivals we attend. You will be able to see and hear this year's band contest winner, Carolina Blue, as part of next year's lineup at RenoFest, Here's a look at the three finalists, including the winning band.
Mountain Faith - 3rd Place
Dry Run Bluegrass - 2nd Place
Members of several of the bands also competed in the individual instrument contests. Each band was given a twenty minute period to perform a brief set. After an interlude, the top three bands were called back for further judging, and the festivities then moved to nearby Burry Park for a town sponsored barbecue-concert and the announcement of the winners as well as entertainment from The Gerald Anderson Band and Lonesome Meadow, last year's winner of the band contest.
Banjo Winner - Corey Clark
Zeb Snyder - Forked Deer - Video
Rob Jordan - Instrument Contest Producer
Kenny & Amanda Smith
Worried About the Future of Bluegrass?
As host band since the beginning, Ronnie Reno & The Reno Tradition have continued to bring the music of Ronnie's Dad, Don Reno, as well as other traditional music to Hartsville each year. Meanwhile, Reno has forged into new territory for bluegrass with "Reno's Old Time Music" on RFD-TV as well as Blue Highways TV, a syndicated cable channel. As a busy entrepreneur, Reno has long committed himself to spreading the word about bluegrass music to larger and different audiences. The bands music is traditional bluegrass presented in a light and friendly way.