Within the trails and trees of Iowa’s oldest state park, Backbone State Park, the melodious tune of a fiddle could be heard on the campsite of the park. It’s the Backbone Bluegrass Festival, and it’s just around the corner in Clayton County by Strawberry Point! Every year on the last weekend of July, Backbone State Park hosts three days of live entertainment for the whole family to enjoy. The festival features multiple bluegrass groups and families, offering a wide variety of bluegrass sound in this scenic venue.
It was a calm afternoon among the fragrant blossoms in Backbone when I heard the playful tune of the fiddle in the distance. Curious about where the sound came from, I left the park to find RVs, cars, and trailers all lined up to enter the campgrounds. Naturally, I had to see what all the excitement was about! I gathered my things and walked by the long line of cars trying to find a place to park. As I entered the campgrounds, I realized what was going on; the Backbone Bluegrass Festival had started! Cars and RVs were trying to find a place to park for the night, or to stay all weekend for the festivities.
String bass joined the fiddle’s soprano tune, and led me through the gates to the stage, where the performers were gathered to fill the grounds with upbeat music. The short, sweet plucking sound of the mandolin now carried the melody, and couples were up on their feet dancing to the beat. Children were dancing in groups as well, jumping to the music and trying to mimic their parents dancing beside them. The warm, fresh air filled my lungs as the energetic bluegrass music filled my heart, and I joined the dancing crowd by the stage. Surrounding the festival, I noticed a few jam circles; friends and family had brought their own instruments and played bluegrass together, and invited others to join them. Had I known how to play, I would have joined them; however, my fingers could never pluck the metal strings of a guitar, or find the correct chords on the wooden neck of the instrument. It was still fun to watch them play and share laughs together.
After what felt like hours of dancing, I had to give my feet a break. I sat at the base of a tree on the campgrounds, and listened to the evening performers, watching families and friends dance the night away. It was a great festival to stumble upon, and have a change to listen to a wonderful genre of music that I wouldn’t have come across otherwise. New to the genre or not, the Backbone Bluegrass Festival is great for the whole family, and is a tradition that continues to get bigger and better.
Written by Jayna Felder | Photo credit to Backbone Bluegrass