Miami Valley Bluegrass Heritage Festival

Photo: The Repeating Arms, with Max Nunery; photo: Max Nunery

By Tim Smith

The Dayton area boasts ardent fans of many types of music, but none has a following quite like bluegrass. Each year there are concerts and festivals devoted to bluegrass music across the region, but local musician and promoter Max Nunery is making it a hometown affair with the Miami Valley Bluegrass Heritage Festival in Miamisburg.

“This is our third year now,” he says. “The first two years the festival was called the Miami Valley Brewgrass Festival. Our first year, a tropical storm hit early, then lifted around 3 p.m. Fortunately, we had a crowd of nearly 1,500 show up anyway. Last year we received even more rain so our numbers were down more, and we lost plenty. The expected turnout was 3,000 and I absolutely feel we would have had that last year given the reaction on social media and the amount of advertising that was applied.”

This year’s lineup includes Larry Sparks and The Lonesome Ramblers, The Clay Hess Band, Hammertowne, Nightflyer, Branded Bluegrass, The Surly Gentlemen, The Repeating Arms, and The Vintage Ramblers. Nunery is pleased to have so many bands with a following participating this year.

“We do have a great lineup,” he says. “The two local groups are my own group, The Repeating Arms from Dayton and The Vintage Ramblers. Clay Hess returns this year, who won a Grammy Award for Bluegrass Gospel album of the year with Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder during his tenure. Cincinnati favorite Nightflyer returns. Larry Sparks is probably the most recognized name in the lineup, a true bluegrass icon. He has had a 50-year career in bluegrass starting with Ralph Stanley in the original Clinch Mountain Boys. He’s formed The Lonesome Ramblers featuring banjo legend Mike Lilly, and Wendy Miller on mandolin. Since Larry is a Lebanon native, he has a large fan base in the Dayton area. We couldn’t be more thrilled to have him headline this year.”

The Bluegrass Heritage Festival is truly a homegrown event, with an enthusiastic let’s-put-on-a-show team spirit.

“The festival was my idea, as far as bringing world-class bluegrass music to my home town of Miamisburg,” Nunery says. “Also, I work with Sarah Clark. She is on the city council, and the secretary of our nonprofit organization for the festival itself. I have played in bands that were fortunate to work with groups out of other cities that organized awesome events and felt that I could do the same if given the opportunity. Sarah has always championed and loved this town in a way that I can say I do. She and I were on the phone one day and decided that having a full bluegrass festival was necessary. The city council was hoping to begin doing events that would permit the sale of beer in the park so the festival became sort of a trial event for the city. Supporting this festival is very important to me, but also to the city of Miamisburg, which is experiencing a renaissance in my opinion. We are the first event to allow beer sales at Riverfront Park.”

Bluegrass music and beer won’t be the only things on tap that day. Nunery and company have planned a full agenda with something for everyone.

“We will have several artisan true craft vendors on site this year so that will add a nice element we have not had prior,” he says. “Also, we will have a corn hole tournament and open play area, a giant beer pong set-up, a putt-putt miniature golf area, and bounce houses for the kids until 7 p.m. We will also have the OSU game on display so anyone that does not want to miss that can enjoy the festival and the game. We will be raffling off several prizes including a hand-carved Loar mandolin. We hope that people can come out and enjoy themselves, spend time with family, and enjoy some of the best music on the planet. We do ask people to bring lawn chairs, leave the pooch at home, and leave all outside alcoholic beverages at home. Also, no lawn umbrellas or tents are permitted. There will be plenty of food trucks and beverages on site, not to mention a whole bustling downtown of restaurants and shops to explore.”

Nunery has high hopes for this year’s event, and would like to see it grow into a two-day festival next year.

“I’m hoping to turn a few people into bluegrass fans as I was not even five years ago,” he says. “There’s something magical about the music itself because it encompasses so much energy and emotion that it’s hard to not appreciate people that can play the instruments as well as these artists do. I would like people to give bluegrass a chance if they have not before and enjoy the relaxing family aspect of a bluegrass festival. There are many bluegrass festivals across the country that include camping. This is something we’re hoping to include next year as well as we move towards a two-day event. But I would like people to experience the wonderful energy of a good bluegrass festival right here in our own backyard in downtown Miamisburg!”

The Miami Valley Bluegrass Heritage Festival will be held on Saturday, Sept. 16 at Riverfront Park in downtown Miamisburg from noon to 11:30 p.m. The family-friendly event is free and open to the public. For more information, please visit MiamiValleyBrewGrass.com or e-mail
EarlyDriveProductions@gmail.com.

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Tim Smith
Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at TimSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com

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