Growing up around music — particularly bluegrass — influenced Elvin Martin’s children to learn the banjo, guitar, bass and fiddle on their own. Now in their teens, the four kids make up two-thirds of the Martin Family Band, an increasingly popular bluegrass act in mid-Missouri.
The band will be a highlight at the three-day Big Muddy Folk Festival, which is taking place this weekend in Boonville.
The festival, currently in its 16th year, will celebrate Thespian Hall’s 150th year. This performance locale was one of the reasons for the festival’s start and is a special part of Boonville.
“It has a kind of intimacy that is really helpful for folk music,” said festival organizer Dave Para.
Para said that, with its authenticity and beauty, the 600-seat Thespian Hall is a perfect setting for the traditional music that takes place at Big Muddy. Many traditional folk songs were originally performed within peoples’ homes, and “the Hall is the closest to a living room setting,” Para said.
Other performances will include the acoustic music of David Wilson and Dudley Murphy, the Juggernaut Jug Band, the old-time music of Lil’ Rev and the traditional American and Celtic folk music of Aubrey Atwater and Elwood Donnelly.
A new feature to this year’s festival combines several of the artists from the weekend’s events and local Boonville choirs for a gospel concert on Sunday.
On top of the folk performances, a number of workshops will take place. These include a guitar session and lessons on how to play the harmonica, the ukulele or a rubber chicken.
“I’m really excited about all the events — the dance on Friday night, the artisans and the barbecue,” said Deborah Hombs, office administrator at Friends of Historic Boonville.
As a folk artist, Para looks forward to the festival as a whole.
“I can’t pick one act over another,” he said.