The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 14, 1997 · Page 26
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 26

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Wednesday, May 14, 1997
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2 WEDNESDAY, MAY 14, 1997 APPLAUSE THE SALINA JOURNAL Bluegrass twangs near the cow barn By Neil Stmtiss N. F» Times News Sen'icc LANESBORO, Mass. — Robbie Steele, the owner of a small dairy farm here in the Berkshires, and Mark Pitsch, his head milker, are cooking up a plan. They need a way to publicize their annual three-day bluegrass festival, which begins July 25. Some promoters would take out ads in newspapers or magazines or buy radio commercials. But not these two. Instead, they are making a deal with a nearby shopping mall. "We think they're going to let us set up a table," said Pitsch. "And in exchange, we're going to bring a calf to the mall and try to get a bluegrass band to play there." Steele added, "It'll attract a lot of attention, all these people flocking around a cow at the mall." Some festivals take place on farms, like Woodstock. Others take place as benefits for farmers, like Farm Aid. But rarely are there festivals organized, promoted and produced by farmers themselves, like Steele's Noppet Hill Bluegrass Festival, now in its second year. It is a festival that has "homemade" stamped all over it. With no experience in the music business, Steele built the stage himself, towed it up a lull on his property with his tractor, constructed shower facilities that he replenished with a water-filled milk trailer, sold his bull so that it wouldn't chase concertgoers and booked the Nashville Bluegrass Band and 10 other acts. In the end, the festival was a success, attracting more than 1,000 people to his farm here TIM MAIN 1817 South 9th St. Kraft Manor, Saline For Auto, Home & Life It Pays To Compare! 913-825-8234 in western Massachusetts. "It's no fim being a concert promoter, I can tell anybody that," said Steele, 38. "It was real rough for me emotionally. When I first called the booking agent for the Nashville Bluegrass Band, 1 was so scared. I thought you had to be the president of the U.S.A. to book the Nashville Bluegrass Band. I kept picking up the phone, then putting it down, dialing half the numbers and putting it down. My wife finally yelled, 'Just do it!'" Steele is not in this business to become a mogul. He's trying to save his farm. Since 1985, seven years after he bought his dairy op- eration, the industry has been in trouble, with the price of milk dropping as operating costs have climbed. Within a three-mile radius of Steele's place there used to be seven dairy farms. Now there's just one. "In order to survive out here, they tell you to diversify your farm," he said. "Everybody can't sell pumpkins and sweet corn. All my neighbors are doing that. So I chose bluegrass." Ever since being awestruck by the fiddling during a high school square dance, Steele, who was raised in nearby South Williamstown, has played the in- YAMAHA' 210 S. Santa Ft, sauna 825-6296 1-800-262-1576 SELMER Professional Band and Orchestra Instrument Sale! stniment. Slowly, music has been encroaching on his life. After driving around in his 1976 tractor for two years with the same Nashville Bluegrass Band tape in the deck he installed and striking up a friendship with two bluegrass musicians down the road, Steele decided to try his hand at musical entrepreneurship. "He jumped right in with both feet and hired great bands," said Robert Fraker, a mandolinist who performed at last year's festival with the Bear Bridge Band. Fraker also happens to be a neighbor of Steele's and one of the many mu- sicians and promoters around the country whom Steele called constantly for advice. "Those days, when the phone rang, you knew that if you didn't have an hour and a half to talk to Robbie, you were lost," Fraker said. Many people who attended say that the first festival offered an easygoing good time, not just on stage, but off, where concert- goers gathered in tents for campfire bluegrass jams (known as field picking) that went on late into the night. Festivalgoers were so well behaved that there was nothing to clean up afterward." CONNECTION Division of USA, Inc. 1915 S.Ohio 825-6247 Shoes • Clothing ? • Equipment New 1997 Baseball Equipment Shop & Compare Stop By For Prices Price & Quality On Team Uniforms TO RESPOND TO ADS, CALL: 1-9OO-737-116O $2.19/minute, you must be at least 18 years of age. I CQNNECTld F" + \ L I N •BBgBSsra^^SSlKS-iS"";'":''"' \ '"•:.• "SSI TO PLACE YOUR FREE AD + Mail: The Salina Journal, Classified Advertising Dept., 333 S. 4th St., Salina, KS 67401 + Fax: Your Ad to (913) 823-3207 • E-Mail to: sjadv@saljournal.com FREE Message retrieval every Wednesday! 1-888-441-4419 WOMEN SEEKING MEN *199«. SINGLE WHITE female 37, anjoys playing pool & mov les. 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AD TODAY! n i " The following information is kept strictly confidential and is necessary to send out instructions you will need: I NAME: _ ADDRESS: I CITY/STATE/ZIP CODE: I TELEPHONE: I Send To: Connection Line The Salina Journal 333 South 4th St., Salina, KS 67401 fifiil FREE HEADLINE:. FREE 25 WORD AD: (No Abbreviations). FAX: (913) 823-3207 E-Mail: CATEGORIES: | *w OOUUITOI 01., oauna.no ofwi Ju-iwau. djauvvy»»jjuui«ttm.^fm — Q Spoils Partners Q Alternative Lifestyles Q Seniors Seeking Seniors Q Women Seeking Men Q Men Seeking Women Q Friends Seeking Friends Q Spoils Partners Q Alternative Lifestyles Q Seniors Seeking Seniors ADVERTISER MATCH Advertiser Match lets you know - when you place an ad - If there are other advertisers out there who are just your type. All you need to do is answer a few simple questions when you record your voice greeting and this new feature will Immediately direct you to other advertisers who meet your criteria. 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