(Todd Stouch illustration)

Music lovers can tickle their ears with the sound of traditional bluegrass music every month from October through May at the Goodwill Fire Co. in York Township.

"We try to bring in known bands who have a following rather than locals, so not everyone has heard them," says Sue McKinsey, the Seven Mountains Bluegrass Association's publicity chairwoman.

The association's 30th annual bluegrass concert series starts Saturday, Oct. 13, with music from a familiar crowd favorite, the Bluegrass Brothers.

Musicians: The Bluegrass Brothers and other returning bands such as Audie Blaylock and Boxcars are always crowd pleasers and usually sell out the hall, McKinsey says.

Performers new to the series this year include Dale Ann Bradley, Lonesome River Band and Mitch Harrell, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are entirely unfamiliar to the local bluegrass scene.

"Most, if not all, of the artists have played in other bands and start their own," McKinsey says. "So some of the members from the new bands are really veterans of the series."

The concert series schedule is arranged to take advantage of a lull in bluegrass offerings.

"The bluegrass festival season usually runs from June to September, so we try to hit the months where not much is going on," McKinsey says.

Purpose: The association was founded 30 years ago to "preserve, promote, and enjoy bluegrass music," according to its mission statement, and local members have been working since then to keep the tradition going.


The association's concert series is "not like anything else," McKinsey says.

"You get to meet the bands and end up knowing the members on a first-name basis," she says. "I've met people who will be lifelong friends. Bluegrass becomes home and family -- and if you don't support it, it won't exist."

McKinsey herself grew up in a bluegrass-loving household.

"My Dad owned the radio in our house. I can remember him coming home from work and the radio was instantly changed to bluegrass," she says. "Lots of people around here grew up listening to it and still enjoy it."

Family: The concert series brings that family-friendly atmosphere to the fire hall. Children 12 and under get in free. Smoking and alcoholic beverages are not allowed at the concerts. Food is served by the Goodwill Fire Co. firefighters and members of the ladies auxiliary, with all food proceeds benefiting the volunteer fire station.

The association welcomes young musicians, too, with scholarships for those who want to improve their skills and the occasional performance to open a show.

"We encourage younger people to get involved," McKinsey says. "We try to get experienced kids who are good at what they do to showcase their talents."

Traditional: The series focuses on traditional bluegrass groups rather than those stretching the boundaries of bluegrass.

"We try to stay away from 'new grass' to keep the original feel for the middle-age and older members of the crowd," McKinsey says. "Traditional and original go over real well and are a main interest of the crowds we bring in."

And whether it's the band up front or the fellow concert-goers to the left and right, attendees can expect to find a friendly face. The welcoming attitude is practically a bluegrass tradition of its own.

"It is a friendly group," McKinsey says. "You talk to the people next to you. You may not know them or talk to them again, but they become like family by the end of the show. That's just how they are. Bluegrass fans are just special."

Bluegrass concert series

The Seven Mountains Bluegrass Association concert series starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, with the Bluegrass Brothers band at Goodwill Fire Co., 2138 S. Queen St., York Township. The doors and kitchen open at 5:30 p.m.

Tickets will be available at the door. The cost is $18 per person for the general public and $15 for association members. Children 12 and under get in free. Membership costs $12 a year and can be purchased at any of the concerts. Benefits include discounted concert admission, an annual discounted ticket to the Allenberry Playhouse for a group picnic, and four newsletters per year.

The concert series will continue at the same location and times on the following dates:

Nov. 10: Audie Blaylock

Dec. 8: Boxcars

Dec. 29: Darrell Webb Band

Jan. 12: Jerry Butler and the Blue J's

Feb. 9: Balsam Range

March 9: Dale Ann Bradley with Steve Gulley and Kim Fox

April 13: Lonesome River Band

May 11: Mitch Harrell and The Virginians

For more information, call (717) 395-7128 or (717) 350-4791 or visit www.sevenmountainsbluegrass.org.

-- Reach Kyle Dunlap at news@yorkdispatch.com.