Bluegrass, family fun on the docket for Saturday's Blues and Grass by the River

Lawrence is a town that loves its bluegrass. John Gallup, a local event promoter with 20 years of experience and a resume that includes the popular, now-defunct Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival, can vouch for that.

“We’ve just had such good music in this town over the last 25, 30 years. It’s been a staple in Lawrence,” Gallup says.

And he’s betting Lawrence’s bluegrass faithful will turn up in droves, if all goes to plan, at this weekend’s aptly named Blues and Grass by the River. Slated for 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, the festival will host performances by a half-dozen local and regional acts — among them Lawrence’s all-female blues-y outfit Sugar Britches, the bluegrass-rock hybrid jams of the Denver-based Oakhurst, and Columbia, Mo.’s Delta Sol Revival — throughout the day at downtown’s Burcham Park.

Bluegrass will be the main event at Blues and Grass, naturally, but even those not keen on the genre should find something to appreciate at the festival, says Gallup, who anticipates an attendance of between 3,000 and 5,000. Also among the attractions: bounce houses, face painting, cotton candy and Sno Cones for the kids, plus food trucks and vendors galore — and cold beer for the adults.

Blues and Grass by the River is the second event organized under the umbrella of Lawrence Community Fest, the brainchild of Gallup and his wife, Nicole Stinger. The first, last summer’s Reggae by the River, drew about 2,000 visitors to Burcham Park, raising more than 3,000 pounds of donated food for Just Food.

Gallup hopes to top that number at Blues and Grass, which is asking guests to bring canned food items (the suggested donation is two cans, though folks can also make monetary donations if they choose) for admittance to the event.

“I just wanted an event in town where we could collect canned foods and give to charities while offering people a fun festival,” Gallup says of Lawrence Community Fest’s origins. “It’s hard to find full entertainment for the whole family. We wanted to offer a place where you could bring your kids and your dog and have a great day.”

Four-legged friends are also welcome at the festival, it should be noted. A refreshment station for dogs (drinks and treats) will be provided to festival attendees and their pets.

Lawn chairs, blankets and such are also encouraged. Gallup wants folks to make a day of it. Like Reggae by the River, which returns to Burcham Park Aug. 20, he’d like to make Blues and Grass an annual event.

“If you’re living in Lawrence, grab a couple cans of food and come on down,” Gallup says. “If you don’t really care about the music, come for the giving and stay for the fun.”

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