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The Bluegrass Minstrels perform at the 2016 Bluegrass BBQ Festival. Photo: Lori Colbo

On July 29, family fun and entertainment return to the Longbranch Improvement Club at the sixth annual Bluegrass BBQ Festival from 2 to 6 p.m. In 2012, the festival replaced the long-running salmon bake fundraiser (2001 to 2011) to support the Longbranch Community Church.

Local arts and craft vendors are new this year, plus items provided by local businesses will be auctioned off. Barbecued sandwiches and sides, including strawberry shortcake, will be available for purchase.

The Day Brothers (pastor John Day and his brothers), Coyote Hill Bluegrass and the Bluegrass Minstrels will provide musical entertainment.

John Day grew up in a musical family.

“We all loved music,” he said. “Dad was the natural talent. He loved to whistle and loved to sing, especially to the Lord. We grew up singing the old hymns together in harmony.”

During Day’s tenure as pastor of Bellewood Presbyterian Church in Bellevue, a parishioner proposed starting a bluegrass gospel jam at the church as an outreach for the community.

“No objections,” Day said, “but none of us knew what bluegrass music was and we didn’t play anything beyond a few chords on guitar.”

One Sunday, the parishioner put one of his own mandolins in Day’s hands and said, “John, if you will learn to play this, you can keep it.” That was all the encouragement needed. “I’ve been playing that old mandolin ever since,” he said.

Longbranch seemed a perfect fit for a bluegrass jam. Day started the monthly jam for church members and community.

“It’s been a wonderful part of our life out here,” he said. “It resonates with our longing to be connected to the past and with our present experience of regular folk struggling to make it, finding joy in simple things and being able to do so in gatherings with any level of talent.”

Dan Whitmarsh, Lakebay Community Church pastor and member of the Bluegrass Minstrels, played trumpet from fifth grade through college and earned a music degree with emphasis on trumpet performance.

“Years later, my father gave me an old mandolin and I joined some friends for their living room jam sessions, where I discovered the joy of bluegrass and folk music.

“Bluegrass is communal music, with each musician offering something that’s important to the whole,” Whitmarsh said. “There are moments when the harmonies are tight and the band is locked into a groove and the music takes on a life of its own.”

Doug and Dorene Paterson, with Day and Whitmarsh, form half of the Bluegrass Minstrels.

Doug Paterson, a KP Fire Department chaplain, took guitar lessons in third grade but didn’t go far with it. He always felt the need to express himself through music.

“A friend’s kid stepped on his mandolin and I took it to fix it many years ago but didn’t,” he said. About 10 years ago, Doug Paterson did repair it. He was inspired by Whitmarsh playing mandolin and started picking at it at home.

Dorene Patterson played clarinet in junior high and high school.

“I always thought banjo would be fun and watching Doug give the mandolin a shot, I borrowed a friend’s banjo for a few months, then got my own,” she said.

Musician John Doan inspired them when he said people played music before radio and recorded media brought professionals into homes. People didn’t worry so much if they weren’t perfect before that.

“Bluegrass feels relaxed, ‘downhomeish’ and individualized but still requires teamwork to pull things together,” Dorene Paterson said.

Courtesy shuttles to the festival will run hourly from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. from three locations: The Key Peninsula Community Services center in Home, the KP Civic Center in Vaughn and the Longbranch Marina.

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