Festival #20: MARCH 1996

THE LEDGER  March 1996    

By Bill Dean
The Ledger

For his 20th anniversary of offering Polk County's largest, free bluegrass festival, bluegrass supporter and Florida cracker extraordinaire Carl Allen is none worse for the wear.
"Well, the first thing is it's the best music this side of heaven, that I know of," Allen laughs.
"It's coming out in popularity, because the old country (music) is gone. People are turning towards the grassroots bluegrass.
"And more people are turning to bluegrass than I've ever seen."
The tireless music impresario, in fact, expects record crowds this year for his three-day festival of fiddles, banjos and clogging, which runs today through Sunday at the International Market World grounds on U.S. 92 W., in Auburndale.
Dubbed "Carl Allen's 20th Annual Florida State Championship Bluegrass Festival and Balloon Race," the festival has grown so much in the past several years that it has forces with the Great Sunrise Balloon Race (which teamed up last year for the f irst time) and is spread out over dozens of acres behind the giant International Market World flea rnarket (for the third year).
Hours are 5 to midnight today; 7:30 a.m. to midnight Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
"It's worked out real Well," Allen says about the current location, which replaced the former park site in downtown Auburndale two years ago. "We have plenty of room.
The need for space can't be underestimated -not with last year's 100,000 cars, and an estimated 200,000-plus bluegrass and balloon fans.
"We've got plenty of parking room, and we've got plenty of camping room," Allen says. "People like to bring their campers in, and it's $5 a day for rough camping. "
General parking is $2, but a trolley cart will offer continuous transportation between the f estival stage and the parking area, Allen says.
As in past years, the music will be supplied by about 16 bluegrass acts from around the southeast - all vying f or the title of Florida's Best.
Trophies and cash prizes of $ 1,000 for first place, $750 for second place, and $300 for third place will be awarded to the best bluegrass band.
Separate contests for banj joists and fiddlers will be held Sunday, with the winners receiving $ 100, and a trophy, each.
"All the winners will get a trophy saying that they're No. 1 in the state; that they're the best, " Allen says.
"We've got 16 bands, and that's as much time as we have," he adds. "We've got bands coming from several places all over the United States."
Throughout the festival, clogging groups will compete in a separate contest inside a Market World building.
The 13th Annual Great Sunrise Balloon Race - which benefits the Sunrise Community (a non-profit organization for people with disabilities) - will be held Saturday at 7 a.m. (Rain date is Sunday at 7 a.m.)
Allen says food at the festival will be plentiful. And much of what makes a bluegrass festival a Bluegrass Festival will occur in the parking lot, "parking-lot picking," where entrants and nonperformers alike will pull out their guitars, fiddles and banjos for spontaneous hootenannies in the parking area.
"They'll be more parking-lot picking than there will anything else; people sitting around picking," Allen says.
Though the festival is free, donations will be accepted to defray the estimated $3,000-$4,000 cost of producing the event. "I'll announce (donations) off the stage, and for anybody that wants to, we'll pass the hat around," he laughs.
"You know the old song, you've got to pay the fiddler."

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