Saturday, May 31, 2008

Strawberry Park - Friday - Picture Bloggin

Field Picking at Strawberry Park

Friday at Strawberry Park offered a repeat of yesterday's fine weather with only a few warning drops of rain just before Rhonda Vincent & The Rage finished their very fine evening set. The three bands from Thursday all had sets on Friday, and they offered new material as well as repeating favorite tunes from earlier. Three additional bands each had two strong sets, and the day proved to be a great one for music lovers.

The Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers, always a favorite anywhere in the northeast, were playing before a crowd which knew their music, knew them, and showed their appreciation with enthusiastic responses to every song. The brother duo, whose close harmonies are well-loved by bluegrass fans across the country, always present a strong program appealing to both the head and the heart. Their new album Iron and Diamonds adds significant works to their catalog, but so many of their songs were popular with this crowd that they responded to many requests. The band, too, seemed to be particularly "on" today. Mike Barber played a powerful bass solo, after which he leaned over to Rick Hayes and said, "How about that one!" Hayes, playing a mandolin of his own making picked several very strong breaks. Clayton Campbell on fiddle was just plain superb. Meanwhile, both Leigh and Eric were in great voice and on target instrumentally.

Eric Gibson

Leigh Gibson

Mike Barber

Clayton Campbell

Rick Hayes

Rhonda Vincent & The Rage

Rhonda Vincent leads one of the hardest touring, most successful bands in bluegrass. Her enthusiasm, warmth, strong singing, and effective picking are only strengthened by having one of the strongest bands in the genre behind her. Rhonda has won the IBMA female singer of the year award seven times. Mickey Harris on bass projects warmth and conviction and maintains an always solid bass beat. His lead and harmony singing are excellent. He is this year's IBMA bass player of the year. Hunter Berry on fiddle is strong and also brings good humor to the group with his understated physical comedy and subtle musical jokes. He's been awarded fiddle player of the year kudos at both IBMA and SPBGMA. Kenny Ingram is one of the greats on banjo, having played with Lester Flatt forty years ago and still playing great breaks and superb backup. Darrell Webb is the newest member of the group, but brings years of experience and a fine versatile voice to the group. His flat picking is first rate. The lines at Rhonda's merchandise tent attest to her popularity. People wait patiently in line for autographs, pictures, or just a word with her, and Rhonda stays until there's no one left in line. She's truly a great entertainer.

Kenny Ingram

Mickey Harris

Darrell Webb

Hunter Berry

Rhonda and Darrell

Rhonda Signing

The Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band

On any given occaison, Peter Rowan is likely to show up with a different band. He tours with Tony Rice, the Mexican Air Force Band, his group featuring Sharon Gilchrist, and sometimes he just shows up by himself and gathers a pick-up band. The bluegrass band this weekend featured Jody Stecher on mandolin, Keith Little on banjo, and Mike Bub on bass. This band, mostly hailing from California presented a good bluegrass set in the afternoon. In the evening Rowan gave in to his fans and his own nature and played a selection of Peter Rowan's greatest hits, much to the delight of most of the audience, who delighted in his 70's era sounds. The band was strong and Rowan in good voice and good humor.

Peter Rowan

Mike Bub

Peter Rowan

The Greencards put up another very strong set. The audience appreciated their blend of progressive world music and bluegrass played with amplified acoustic instruments. Their musicianship is superb and they communicate their love for the music with integrity and strength.

Carol Young

Kym Warner

Eamon McLoughlin

While the Greencards continue to bill themselves as a trio. Jake Stargell has become an integral part of this group on guitar.

Jake Stargell

Friday at Strawberry Park was a fine day. It's supposed to rain and thunder today, but the lineup is great. We'll see if I'm able to take pictures.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Strawberry Park BGF - Thursday

Strawberry Park Bluegrass Festival in Presont, CT opened on Thursday evening with three mellow sets, which were justifiably well received by a smallish, but enthusiastic audience. The crowd will surely continue to grow today, as the lineup is superb and the weather warm, clear and dry. The evening kicked off at 6:00 with Amy Gallatin & Stillwaters and their melodious mix of bluegrass, country and folk. Gallatin has a spot-on voice and is well supported by the excellent Roger Williams on Dobro and young Ben Pierce on mandolin. John Urbanek plays bass and supplies excellent vocal harmonies. Williams very fine Dobro playing provides excellent support for Gallatin's voice as well as his own distinctive compositions.

Amy Gallatin & Stillwaters

Amy Gallatin

Roger Williams

Ben Pearce

Amy Gallatin

Pete and Anne Sibley followed with a delightful set comprising some bluegrass and lots of their own compositions, which can probably be best characterized as folk. This duo, originating in Connecticut lives now in Jackson, WY. Their presentation is relaxed and personable. Their sound filled with melody, harmony, and their delight in each other.

Pete and Anne Sibley

Anne Sibley

Anne & Pete Sibley

The Greencards evoked a terrific response here last year and have returned for sets on Thursday and Friday this weekend. Their progressive sound combines bluegrass, jazz, and rock sensibilities with strong instrumental and vocal work from the entire group. Traditional bluegrass fans probably won't much take to The Greencards immediately, but they're personable - their energy and enthusiasm electric. Coming from Australia and England, they are now based in Nashville and were nominated for a Grammy this year. Carol Young on bass provides strong vocals, many her own compositions. Kym Warner on mandolin brings great energy and fine picking to his Sam Bush style movement. Eamon McLoughlin on fiddle and viola (what's the bluegrass equivalent to "fiddle" for the viola?) is very strong. He also sings while he plays, a very unusual bit for a fiddler. While he doesn't appear on their web site, Jake Stargell on guitar is, nevertheless, a standout. While only seventeen years old, Stargell is a mature and accomplished flatpicker whose rhythm work is also excellent. This excellent band provides a strong nod toward the progressive sound in Americana music at Strawberry Park.

The Greencards

Carol Young

Kym Warner

Eamon McLoughlin

Jake Stargell

Carol Young

I'll be mostly picture blogging each morning for the rest of the weekend from Strawberry Park. The music will be excellent this weekend. The weather iffy on Saturday. Come back and visit.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ocean Lakes Family Campground - Review

As Memorial Day passes and summer is hard upon us, it’s time to think of the beach. Up and down the east coast, Myrtle Beach is recognized as one of the great beach resort areas and Ocean Lakes Family Campground one of the best ways to enjoy it. Looking at Ocean Lakes evokes lots of superlatives about the largest, most expensive, best, most professionally managed, and more. While Ocean Lakes is a little pricey for us in summer, we stay there for two or three weeks a year during the off season and shoulder season. In many ways it meets our needs and there’s almost no RV resort we’ve stayed at managed in a more professional fashion.

Ocean Lakes Registration and Information Center

Registration Center Line Control

If you’re looking for large sites, lots of quiet, privacy, and a budget campground, Ocean Lakes should probably not be your choice. However, if you want easy accessibility to a wide, long beach, clean and large rest room facilities, easy access to free or pay Internet, and the best and largest Laundromat along the east coast, give Ocean Lakes a careful look.

There's a Mile of Beach Front

Beach Side Camping

Campground Map

Typical Shower and Rest Room

Ocean Lakes is basically divided into two sections.
At the front, that is the beach side are 893 full service campsites. These range back from the beach in row after row of well designed sites, most large enough for almost any RV. All sites have 30 and 50 amp electric hookups, water, sewer, and cable TV. Campers staying a month or longer can arrange with Time Warner for direct telephone and digital TV. Each section of the campground has at least one rest room complex. These are large, modern, and cleaned several times a day, if needed. Maps of the campground are provided on the Ocean Lakes web site to assist in selecting a site. Camp sites are large enough for a camping rig and one vehicle. Nevertheless, they are quite close together, and people seeking lots of room or privacy won’t find it at Ocean Lakes.

Camping with Beach Houses in Background

Beach Houses on Lake

Street Away from Beach

Older Unit
People who don’t wish to camp can stay at Ocean Lakes nevertheless. The park contains about 2400 annually leased sites on which permanent buildings have been erected. These range from sites on which trailers have been permanently anchored and improved to quite elaborate three story beach houses built on stilts and selling for many hundreds of thousands of dollars. Ocean Lakes handles rentals for about 300 of these buildings and many others can be rented seasonally from their owners. Many are also for sale. The overall effect of the 26 miles of streets in Ocean Lakes is the pleasant clutter of a place that grew willy-nilly with very few controls. Some streets, particularly those backed by one of the seven lakes are airy an open, while others feel closed in. That having bee said, the people who live in or visit Ocean Lakes seem to love it. There’s an undeniable sense of community present.

Game Room

Part of Pool Complex

Year Round Indoor Pool

Enjoying the Skateboard Course
Among Ocean Lakes’ strongest selling points are the many amenities offered there. In the center of the park lies a complex of support buildings that offers a huge range of activities and resources. Perhaps the most attractive to us has been the Laundromat, one of the best anywhere, clean and very well-equipped. For families coming for a short or long stay, the park offers several swimming pools, snack bars, game rooms, and even a small skate board park. There’s a large conference center where the annual Ocean Lakes Bluegrass Festival is held in August. Ocean Lakes provides watchful security and a guarded entrance, making it a pretty secure place. The efficiency of the check-in at the gate makes most hotels look shabby.

Shopping Core


Snack Bar

Camp Store

Camp Store

All this comes at a pretty steep price. RV sites range in cost depending on season and proximity to the beach from $26.00 per night to $60.00 for an ocean front site with a concrete pad. Because Ocean Lakes is a pretty large place, many people who come here want to rent a golf cart during their stay. In season, these cost $48.00 a day. So, plan on spending a minimum of around $100.00 a day to stay there during the summer. Comparing this to hotel rates on the Grand Strand suggest it isn’t so expensive after all. You can enjoy a pretty full vacation in Myrtle Beach without ever leaving Ocean Lakes. If you avail yourself of the other opportunities offered by the Grand Strand, you can have a very fine vacation. In the end, choice of campground is a matter of personal taste, convenience, and price. Ocean Lakes satisfies all three for many RVers year round.

At the Beach