By Sheena Barnett
NEW ALBANY – Old-time music is in the spotlight at this weekend’s Down From the Hills Heritage Music Festival.
The festival is both a bluegrass showcase and a competition, with bands like Breaking Grass performing and musicians battling in the State of Mississippi Bluegrass Music Championship.
“We’re going to honor bluegrass,” said Jill Smith, director of the Union County Heritage Museum and a festival organizer. “We had a little boy who competed last year and he was 5 years old. I love to see that, because that’s what our mission is, to perpetuate this music and give it a venue.”
Individual pickers and players can compete in the mandolin, banjo, dobro, guitar and fiddling competitions, and there’s a competition for bands, too.
Each instrument has youth, apprentice and senior divisions.
The competition will award $8,000 in prize money, Smith said.
Participants can begin registering at the site at 8:30 a.m., and the competition starts at 10 a.m.
“And it ends when the fat lady sings,” Smith said. “It depends on the number of competitors.”
Bluegrass group Breaking Grass, who won the state band competition a few years ago, will perform at noon. The Cakewalkers will perform in the afternoon.
National bluegrass championship winners will present workshops that morning.
The 2013 national dobro winner and the 2011national banjo champ will give workshops at 10 a.m., and those workshops are $25.
“Those guys know a lot of hot licks. You wouldn’t always get the chance to watch and learn from these people,” Smith said. “If you’re a banjo or dobro player, it’s a good opportunity to get better on your own instrument.”
The festival also includes food, folk art demonstrations, quilt show and a pony pull.
Anyone who makes their arts, crafts or foods from scratch are welcome to sell at the festival.
Smith said the festival wouldn’t be possible without a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission.
“The grant we get from them is integral for this being a state competition,” she said.
CHECK IT OUT
• What: Down From the Hills Heritage Music Festival
• When: 10 a.m.-until Saturday
• Where: Union County Fairgrounds, New Albany
• Cost: $5
• Info: (662) 538-0014, mississippifiddlers.com