History of the Darrington Bluegrass Festival
In the 1950’s a group of local musicians with roots in North Carolina would get together for “Jam Sessions” at the Community Center every month. As the sessions grew the Darrington Bluegrass Association was formed in order to bring nationally recognized acts to town. The founders of the Blugegrass Festival, Bob Fisher, Grover Jones, Louie Ashe, O.C. Helton, Roy Morgan (pictured below, left to right) started a bluegrass band called The Whitehorse Mountaineers in the mid-1970s. The band grew out of local jams by transplanted Tarheels in Darrington that started drawing so many people they decided to host the first annual Darrington Bluegrass Festival in 1977 at the rodeo grounds.
The first stage was a flatbed trailer set up at the Darrington Rodeo Grounds. Sam and Bertha Nations met and married in North Carolina and moved to Darrington in the 1940s. They called their band The Combinations. Like their friends in The Whitehorse Mountaineers, Sam and Bertha were also founding members of the Bluegrass and Country Musicmakers Association, the nonprofit which runs the festival to this day, 40 years later. Although Sam passed away in the year 2000, Bertha continues to play, bringing the latest version of The Combinations to the festival’s stage this year.
In the 1980s, the land immediately east of the rodeo grounds became available, so the Bluegrass and Country Musicmakers Association purchased it and started working to make it an outdoor amphitheater. The Darrington Bluegrass Festival now had its own home. This photo shows the portable stage that had been used at the rodeo grounds, placed in its new home at the bluegrass grounds while the site was still under construction.In the late 1980s, a new, bigger stage was built in the style of a log cabin home, similar to country and bluegrass venues in the South. Musicians were now better protected from the elements and they had a room backstage to hang out in before their time to play. That stage has featured some national bluegrass legends, including Bill Monroe.