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Bluegrass festival marking 12th year in Ligonier Valley

| Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

The twangs of banjos, mandolins, fiddles and guitars will resound through Ligonier Valley next week.

The 12th annual Laurel Highlands Bluegrass Festival will take place at the Ligonier Township Volunteer Fire Department Station No. 44, 1012 Harvey Road, on June 20 and 21. Seven bands from Pennsylvania and other states will take the stage for a weekend of family entertainment and music deeply rooted in tradition.

“These bands are in competition with Alan Jackson,” said Keith Neiderhiser coordinator of the event. “This is up-and-coming. I'm excited about this year.”

This year's lineup includes:

• Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers

• Feller & Hill & The Bluegrass Buckaroos

• Rachel Burge & Blue Dawning

• Lonesome Meadow

• Mac Martin & The Dixie Travelers

• The Martin Brothers & Aspen Run

• Border Ride

“There's a variety of old time and newer bluegrass music,” Neiderhiser said.

Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers promise a mix of “murder, mountains and moonshine” in their performance.

“In a good bluegrass concert, you're going to laugh, cry, love and fight, and you're going to kiss and make up,” said Joe Mullins, banjo player and vocalist.

Mullins, 48, has been playing music for about 30 years and has a career in broadcasting, working for several radio stations. The Radio Ramblers were “born out of necessity” about eight years ago when many of Mullins' radio clients started requesting live entertainment at his stations' live broadcasts. The band's instrumentation includes fiddle, banjo, mandolin, bass and guitars.

“Everybody in the band sings,” Mullins said. “We love vocal harmony.”

For the past four years, the band has performed shows between 80 and 100 days out of the year.

“Our goal in the modern bluegrass age is to be identifiable,” Mullins said. “We want folks to recognize when they hear us. We want folks to say, ‘Hey, that's the Radio Ramblers.'”

The band has earned accolades, such as the International Bluegrass Music Association's Emerging Artist of the Year, and they have performed at the Grand Ole Opry.

Mullins said he is heavily influenced by “the founding fathers of bluegrass,” like The Stanley Brothers and Earl Scruggs, while his younger counterparts in the band are inspired by regional musicians.

“We can be steeped in the bluegrass tradition, but we find some other pretty cool stuff, too, and make it our own,” he said.

Learn more about Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers at

The bluegrass festival circuit brought together the five members of Border Ride, a contemporary, upbeat outfit from Pennsylvania and Ohio with a chemistry that serves them well on-stage.

“The friendship is there, we have a great time every time we perform and we hit it off,” said guitarist Nelson Boosel, 60. “There's a magic there.”

Playing a range of instruments, like bass, dobro, guitars, banjo, mandolin and fiddles, Border Ride's members have earned industry recognition for their skills. Cathy Pearson placed at the Mid Atlantic Mandolin Championships as well as the Mayville Bluegrass Festival Mandolin Championships. Jimmy Metz was the Kent State Folk Festival banjo champion three years in a row, and Scott Pearson has placed in state and national mandolin and guitar contests. Bassist and vocalist Darla Evans has performed with Alison Krauss and Union Station, Claire Lynch, Lauri Lewis, The Lonesome River Band and Mountain Heart. Boosel took first place at an Oil City Bluegrass Festival songwriting competition.

The band is thrilled to come to the Laurel Highlands, Boosel said.

“It's just beautiful,” he said. “Pennsylvania is beautiful anyway, especially in the summer.”

Border Ride fills up its weekends with gigs in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York. Its music is influenced by “anybody who has good harmonies and good picking,” Boosel said. Their show contains high energy with well-blended vocals, he said.

“It's bluegrass like you've never heard before,” he said.

Learn more about Border Ride at

In addition to live entertainment, festivalgoers can also take part in a fish dinner on Friday and breakfast and a spaghetti dinner on Saturday. The concession stand will also serve food throughout the weekend, Neiderhiser said.

The festival's “cow plop” game will provide additional entertainment, Neiderhiser said. Attendees may purchase a square of grass in hopes the on-site cow “plops” there. Those with the winning square will receive half of the game proceeds.

For more information, visit

Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or

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