Fans like easy attitude at Creating Smiles Bluegrass Festival

  • Local bluegrass band CB Pickers performed Saturday afternoon at the 2nd annual Bluegrass Festival presented by Creating Smiles to benefit Children's National Medical Center. From left are: Lee Jones on guitar, Carroll Hively on bass, and Sam Zimmerman on banjo.
Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

FAIRPLAY -- Brandon Michael didn't always consider himself a bluegrass kind of guy.

"I played the violin clean up through ninth grade," said Michael, 30, of Smithsburg. "But then I got tired of the music because it was boring. I wouldn't listen to it on the radio."

He put his violin in the closet and spent his high school years listening to rock and heavy metal.

All the while, Brandon's father, Nelson Michael, played bluegrass. One day, about seven or eight years ago, Brandon Michael said, he decided to give bluegrass a try.

"I pulled the fiddle out of the closet, bought a little book," he said. "But really with bluegrass, you play more or less by ear and make up your own stuff."

Michael knows this well, as he now plays along with his father and a seasoned group of musicians who comprise Ernie Bradley and the Grassy Ridge. He performed with the band Saturday at the second annual Creating Smiles Bluegrass Festival at the Woodmen of the World Campground in Fairplay.


There is a significant level of skill required to play bluegrass, Michael said.

"I go through moods with music. I'll listen to R&B, rock, hip-hop. But the talent of bluegrass musicians when they start to break out, the notation is amazing. It's not like rock and other styles of music where you just hear the same chords over and over," Michael said.

Jes Kretzer, 24, of Sharpsburg, attended the festival to celebrate her birthday with her friend Chris Butts, 25. Kretzer grew up listening to live bluegrass while camping with her family at Lake Anna, Va. Now, she plays harmonica and continues to frequent bluegrass festivals for the overall ambiance, including the music, the food and the "relaxing" mood.

Kretzer confidently declined a friend's invitation to go to the Western Maryland Blues Fest in Hagerstown which took place at the same time as the bluegrass festival, she said.

"The Blues Fest is chaos. This is more relaxing. The music is good. The bands are all new to me. I think this is an awesome time," she said.

Brandon Shoemaker, 26, and his friend Laura Bennett, 28, of Hagerstown, said they too, enjoyed the easy bluegrass attitude.

"It's not uptight. There are no fights, stealing. Nothing like that is going to happen. It's just laid back and there's a lot of good conversation," Bennett said.

Shoemaker said he developed a taste for bluegrass as a boy listening to Bill Monroe with his grandfather.

Tonie Mills, 34, of Fairplay, organized the event as one in a series of Creating Smiles fundraisers benefiting a variety of causes. She said she plans to obtain nonprofit status for Creating Smiles. Proceeds from the bluegrass festival will go to Children's National Medical Center in Washington D.C., she said.

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