Big Muddy Folk Festival to kick off 18th year

Friday, April 3, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

BOONVILLE — It was two days before the Big Muddy Folk Festival in Boonville, and festival organizers Dave Para and Cathy Barton were concentrating on their own performance while they let volunteers and sponsors take care of the last-minute details.

The festival kicks off its 18th year Friday afternoon with its traditional barbecue in Turner Hall before the evening concert across the street at Thespian Hall. The two-day festival will include two evening concerts as well as musical workshops for adults and children. Each of the eight bands or individuals performing was hand-picked by Barton and Para.

If you go

What: Evening concerts

Where: Thespian Hall, 522 Main St., Boonville

When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Cost: $20 per evening, $35 for the weekend. Tickets are available at the festival's Web site. For free student tickets, call 888-588-1477.


What: Barbecue. Includes pulled pork, ribs, chicken and bratwurst as well as sides, drinks and desserts.

Where: Turner Hall, 518 Vine St., Boonville

When: 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday

Cost: $9


What: Workshop

When and where: See the schedule.

Cost: Included with $35 weekend price; otherwise $5.

“We like to have seen all the performers play somewhere," Para said. "That doesn’t always happen, but almost always we’ve seen these folks play somewhere else.”

The Chapmans, described as a first-generation bluegrass family band, are the one exception to this year’s lineup. Para and Barton have never met the family, but they have heard about them for many years and included them after strong recommendation from friends and other musicians.

Para said though they don’t typically have bands return, this is the Juggernaut Jug Band's second year at the festival and duo Lou and Peter Berryman’s third. Barton and Para, who have been married for nearly 30 years and have been playing as a duo for about 32 years, have performed at every festival by request.

Friends of Historic Boonville has sponsored the folk festival since it began in 1991. Para is the artistic director of the festival, but Friends helps him to carry out all of the weekend events like the workshops and barbecue.

Holly Peterson, executive director of the Friends of Historic Boonville, said they use the two-day barbecue as a fundraiser to support the mission of their organization: to plan, promote, expand and celebrate the cultural life of Boonville through arts, history and historic preservation for the betterment of the community.

Peterson said more than 40 volunteers are helping with the barbecue, at the workshops and as ushers during the evening concerts. The workshops, which take place all day Saturday, will include mini concerts and instructional workshops led by some of the performers.

“Dave and I both work on arranging what the workshops will be," Barton said. "We look at the group of performers and see who would work well with whom.”

The Juggernaut Jug Band will lead an interactive workshop for kids, which will include singalongs. Barton said a goal for the festival is to attract a younger crowd and they have set aside free tickets for students for the past two years.

“We want to get younger people to come, participate and to listen because you’ve got to keep it going," Barton said. "You know, that’s the future of this sort of music — you’ve got to pass it on to the younger generations.”

Twice the festival has added Sunday performances, but they have no immediate plans to expand the festival. It’s a two-day, one-venue festival, making it small and generally allowing for only eight to 10 performers.

The Saturday night concert will include performances by Stephen Bennett, Lou and Peter Berryman, Squirrelheads & Gravy and the Chapmans.

All in all, Para said, they want to keep the festival as diverse and colorful as possible.

“That’s the fun thing, too, that we try to do," Barton said. "You know, we’ll go from jug band music to bluegrass to sometimes Native American to blues. I like that kind of diversity.”

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