Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

Blue Waters Bluegrass gets back to its roots

Nationally recognized bands come to the Medical Lake stage


Just over a month remains until the annual Blue Waters Bluegrass music festival in Medical Lake, and organizers are excited to showcase a strong lineup of talented players.

For three days, Aug. 9-11, Medical Lake’s Waterfront Park will be home to some of the top emerging bluegrass artists in the nation, Blue Waters president Kevin Brown said.

“We’ve got a fun lineup that we’re really excited about,” he said. “The lineup will probably be a bit more ‘bluegrassy’ than last year.”

Two of the headlining acts were nominated for the Emerging Artist award at the International Bluegrass Music Association’s annual awards ceremony. Della Mae, an all-girl band, as well as the group Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen didn’t win the award, but will bring their talented stage shows to Medical Lake as part of the festival.

Brown said one of Della Mae’s fiddlers and founding member, Kimber Ludiker, is a Spokane native who played at a previous Blue Waters festival. Ludiker is also a two-time national fiddle champion. The band recently toured in Eastern Europe countries and Pakistan.

“It was a pretty empowering thing, I think,” Brown said. “They’re just a really entertaining group of gals.”

Another standout musician, guitarist Jim Hearst, will perform and also host a workshop. Brown said Hearst is one of the guitar masters, and will bring a wealth of knowledge to the table during his workshop.

“He’s been recognized as one of the best guitarists in the bluegrass world,” he said.

The festival lineup is typically put in place toward the end of the year. Brown said this time of the year is set aside to tie down some of the finer details like enlisting the help of volunteers and continuing advertising for the festival.

Since last August, the Blue Waters board of directors has seen some changes. Long-time members left to help other local events, while some new community members stepped up to fill the void. While the departure of familiar faces was a bit of a shock at first, things smoothed out and the team has continued to build a strong event.

“There’s been a bit of new energy in the board and the committee, and that’s one of the exciting things,” Brown said.

Blue Waters continues to draw crowds from Spokane out to Medical Lake, and visitors will once again hear music coming from those camped out in the parking lot. Jam sessions have been a staple of the festival that Brown and many others note as part of their favorite sights and sounds at Blue Waters.

“The festival officially starts Friday, but for the last four years or so, people have been rolling in Monday or Tuesday and camping up there,” Brown said. “That’s always really fun, to see that excitement starting a few days before the festival starts.”

Bands throughout the years have noted how intimate the Waterfront Park venue is, and regularly compliment organizers on the audience. The backdrop of Medical Lake serves as a strong starter venue for those who might be new to the bluegrass sound.

“If they’re new to bluegrass, the best way to learn about it is at a live festival,” Brown said. “And the park at Medical Lake is such a great place.”

For more information, to purchase tickets or to volunteer, visit the festival website at

James Eik can be reached at

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