For decades, the Chilliwack Bluegrass Festival was a prime location for anyone who liked to strum a banjo or play a fiddle in line with traditional bluegrass, however, it’s been the better part of a decade since the musical genre was celebrated in the area. That is, until now.
Jeff Bonner, who’s a long-time musician and the owner of the Tractorgrease Cafe, is doing his best to bring bluegrass back to the Fraser Valley in a grand way.
“The Chilliwack Bluegrass Festival was (not only) a really important festival for Chilliwack, (but) was the biggest bluegrass festival around,” explained Bonner from the patio of Tractrogrease.
Having begun the revamp of the Festival last year, Bonner says he hopes to generate enough excitement with this year’s show to not only keep the festival going, but also growing.
“It would be nice for Chilliwack to have it again,” said Bonner. “So I started again last year and it sold right out. It would be nice for it to become what it was again, which was a pretty substantial festival.”
The former bluegrass festival “was a big highlight of the summer for many years and is still missed,” said Sue Malcolm, whose bluegrass trio group, The Soda Crackers, will be hosting a free slow pitch jam session workshop at the Festival, and also kicking off the day’s entertainment.
“It’s unfortunate that the Chilliwack Arts Council chose not to continue producing the festival, but it’s great that (Tractorgrease) has started (its) own festival. It’s a really cool venue to play at.”
However, Bonner notes the Chilliwack Arts Council is sponsoring the free slow pitch jam session as a way to still be involved. The Tractorgrease Bluegrass Festival takes place on Saturday, Sept. 8, from 4 p.m. until around 10, and has an admission fee of $25.
But the event is for both “the public and the bands,” said Bonner. “At the end of the night, bands (sometimes) jam together, which is awesome. The Festival gives musicians the opportunity for networking within the music community, and that’s often not the case,” Bonner added.
“Bluegrass appeals to a broad range of ages,” Bonner continued. “We’re seeing younger people coming in these days and picking banjos. Bluegrass will never go away, so we need to embrace it!”