The Bluegrass Minstrels entertained at the festival in 2015. Photo by Hugh McMillan, KP News

How many years does it take for an event to become a community tradition? On Saturday, July 30, from 2 to 6 p.m., the Bluegrass Festival will return to the Longbranch Improvement Club for its fifth year. For many in the area, it’s already a can’t-miss highlight of summer.

The free festival is a fundraiser for the Longbranch Community Church. The event has drawn increasingly large crowds to hear bluegrass bands from near and far. Chef Oliver Coldeen is back at the barbecue again this year, and the silent auction will return as well with a variety of treasures up for bid.

Church member Leroy Seeley enjoyed the music, the food and the silent auction last year. “I bought a photograph done by David Montesino of the Tacoma News Tribune,” Seeley said.

While admission and parking for the event are free, the church relies on food sales to bring much-needed funds. “We do charge for food. That’s where the fundraising comes in,” church Pastor John Day said. All money raised will go to the ministry of Longbranch Community Church.

The church hosted a salmon bake every summer from 2001 to 2011, when the rising price of fish made the event too expensive for many in the area. Since the church was already hosting a gospel bluegrass jam on the third Sunday of every month, an annual festival felt like a natural fit.

Local favorite The Bluegrass Minstrels will return for 2016. The large and versatile band includes three local church leaders: Day, Pastor Dan Whitmarsh of Lakebay Community Church, Pastor Tim Stobbe of Waypoint Church, as well as Key Peninsula residents Ben Wysong, Bill and Lynn Lloyd, and Doug and Dorene Paterson. Doug Paterson is assistant pastor at Lakebay Lutheran Church and chaplain of the KP Fire Department.

“It’s a lot of fun playing with these guys,” Bill Lloyd said.

In addition, the Day Brothers, a trio that includes John Day and his brothers, Daniel and David, will take to the stage again this year. The three grew up near Stanwood, born to music-loving parents who had them singing, playing piano and strumming banjos from a young age. Although both Daniel and David now live out of state (Daniel in Oklahoma and David in Portland) and follow in their father’s footsteps as chiropractors, John Day has lived in Longbranch and served as pastor at the Longbranch church since 2011.

Coldeen’s barbecue is a tradition in itself, and this year he is offering a choice of pulled pork or pulled chicken sandwiches with sides of coleslaw and chips for $6. Soda or bottled water will be available for $1. Those in the mood for something sweet can dig into strawberry shortcake for $3.

The silent auction is another component of the festival that draws a crowd. While items for the 2016 auction had not been finalized at press time, past auction items have included handmade silver jewelry, Rainiers baseball tickets and an antique dollhouse. “It varies a lot from year to year,” Day said.

Dorene Paterson, one of The Bluegrass Minstrels, enjoyed the inclusive aspect of last year’s event, which featured a jam circle where any musician who brought an instrument was welcome to play.

“It seems there’s a lot of people in the community who really look forward to this each year,” she said.

Want to go? The Bluegrass Festival happens Saturday, July 30, from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Longbranch Improvement Club, 4312 Key Peninsula Hwy South in Longbranch. 884-6022
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