By SHANNON WATKINS
Saturday’s Pulaski Grand Slam Bluegrass Festival at Calfee Park had a modest turnout and, despite the intermittent light rain, much milder weather then the previous two years’ events.
Joey Cox and Company performed first, in a steady set of traditional and original songs, including a soulful cover of “You Put the Blue in Me” and a playful rendition of “More Pretty Girls Than One.”
Although Cox is a Pulaski native, this was his first Grand Slam festival. He bantered with the crowd between songs. “I’m the last house on Cox Hollow Road,” he said. “If you’re a redneck, you might have ridden a four-wheeler up there.”
Adam McPeak and Mountain Thunder of Max Meadows took the stage next, offering a strong act, including songs such as “That High Lonesome Sound” and an especially well-received cover of Flatt and Scruggs’ “Head over Heels.”
Last up was the James King Band of Danville, giving the crowd a spirited performance. King also joked with the audience, switching with ease from the haunting tone of songs like “Crazy Heart I Wish I Didn’t Love You” and “Rank Stranger” to a lighter mood when he asked, “How do I look? I went on Weight Watchers and lost 146 dollars.”
Each of the three bands played a 45-minute set; in between each set, items were raffled away to ticketholders. Numbers were read off by of various helpers of the day’s emcee, Pulaski Economic Director John White, who called winners down to the field to receive their goods.
Prizes included guitar magazines, gift certificates for free food from Tom’s Drive In and Bella Pizzeria, free bike rentals from Pulaski Bikes LLC, free greens fees from Pulaski Country Club and free T-shirts.
A child-sized T-shirt went to a distinctly grownup gentleman, prompting White to tell him, “Wear it with pride.”
The winner received his prize with good humor, saying, “Any time you can go hear bluegrass music is a good day.”
In addition to the main giveaway was a 50-50 raffle, in which one winner would receive half the money the raffle raised. Ticketholder Brenda Schnell, a North Carolina native who has lived in Pulaski since 1982, came down but declared she was giving the money back.
“I would like to donate this in hopes that we have the festival next year,” she said, to surprise and applause.
“That’s a winner!” said Jennifer White, assisting John White with the cash giveaway.
Schnell later said the gesture was spontaneous. “Well, it’s just because I love bluegrass music. They’ve had this for three years and I’ve been every year. I just love every kind of live music but especially bluegrass.” She continued, “I think if the town goes to the trouble of putting on a live event, we should support it.”
The festival ran from 2 p.m. until after dark. Popcorn, soda and water were sold by the park’s concession stand, while J&D Productions of Dublin sold hot dogs, nachos, lemonade and other fare from a food truck. CDs and band merchandise, along with festival gear, were sold near the entrance.