Bluegrass on the green grass

Stratford holds annual festival

-Daily Freeman-Journal photos by Hans Madsen Kody Norris, vocalist and guitarist for the Kody Norris Show, gives a thumbs up with bass player Tyler Wiseman as they work through their set at the Stratford Bluegrass Festival Friday afternoon.

STRATFORD — A little bit of a gusty wind blowing through the grounds of the 34th annual Stratford Bluegrass Festival Friday afternoon gave vocalist and guitarist Kody Norris fodder for a well-received joke.

“Wow,’ he said. “That blew the tune right off my guitar, and it’s still going.”

While Norris and his band performed, members of the band Bluegrass Express packed up their instruments in the shade of the park shelter.

Among those, Caleb Erickson, of Galena, Illinois, keeps something special in his guitar case.

It’s a print of an old photograph of his grandfather, Leif Erickson, holding a guitar.

“When I was 11,” he said. “I got an email with that picture. It’s from the ’30s in a Civilian Conservation Corps camp during the Depression.”

Turns out, his grandfather was a gifted musician who could play almost anything on any instrument.

“I do that too, I can pretty much play anything,” he said.

“He played on radio stations and he was in a band,” he said. “Oddly though, his main instrument was the accordion.”

Erickson’s grandfather also had the legacy of the wandering musician.

“He was a rambling man,” he said.

Erickson never got to meet his grandfather who died young.

“He was killed by a drunk driver while walking home from a bar.” he said.

Lou Wilcox, of Anamosa, was on hand to listen to the musicians. It was her first visit to Stratford although she regularly attends festivals in Missouri and Arkansas.

“It’s great,” she said after covering her chair with plastic sheeting, “I’m still trying to figure out the weather.”

Bluegrass musicians are often known for their finely honed sense of humor.

Jeff Partin, of Ellijay, Georgia, plays bass with Volume Five.

Stuck under the strings at the bottom of his instrument, a round pillow. The fabric pattern, a slice of watermelon.

“It kills overtones and it’s fun,” he said. “In the fall I’m putting in a cat one.”

Don’t ask him if the cat’s a pillow though.

“No,” a fellow band member replied. “It’s a real cat.”

The 34th annual Stratford Bluegrass Festival continues today with two sets of music. One starts at noon, the other at 6 p.m. In addition, there’s a parade at 10:30 a.m through downtown Stratford.

There is also a community church service on Sunday at 10:30 a.m.

Food, including homemade pie, is available on site.

Admission is $25 for all day. $20 after 5 p.m. Seating is bring your own lawnchair.