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Congaree Bluegrass Festival plays to bigger crowd, new venue

Almost 7,000 folks listened to acclaimed Bluegrass artists during the ninth annual Congaree Bluegrass Festival the first weekend in October at the Historic Columbia Speedway. This year has gone “exceptionally well,” according to Danny Creamer, member of Cayce Events Committee.

Last year’s event was cancelled due to the flood so it was quite a relief to welcome this year with nothing but sunshine and great weather.

While The Thomas Family plays in the background, Creamer listens and says, “This band has always touched my heart.” They are a family band with both parents and three young adults based out of West Columbia. Creamer mentions they were the only ones booked from last year that played this year’s gig.

“When it comes to the festival, I still pinch myself. I just woke up one day and told my lovely bride I wanted to play bluegrass music. She thought I hit my head,” said Creamer. “I believe the Lord has a plan for all of us. My band (Sugarloaf Mountain Boys) will play next year at the 10 th annual festival.”

Creamer and his band began his dream of playing bluegrass for Cayce at the Riverwalk’s Pavilion in 2007. He said they put up a few signs, did a litter advertising and just set up and played to roughly 500 people. The next thing he knows, city officials came by one day and they were impressed. The next thing he knows, the City of Cayce asks him to join their events committee and asked him to organize the annual Congaree Bluegrass Festival.

“The first show was in 2008. The goal was to have a couple of local bands and a couple of regional bands. We ended up having three bands from the Midlands, one from the Upstate and one from North Carolina,” he said.

Each year has improved and this year, Creamer said he has over 100 bands wanting to play. Creamer listens and looks out for what people want to hear while taking into account the budget.

“I’m booking bands in December and January,” said Creamer who talent scouts out acts including musicians within the International Bluegrass Music Association.

When it comes to future festivals, Creamer is optimistic that it will continue to grow. It was formerly held at Granby Park but they eventually outgrew it. This year they featured seven bands and also had an art show, military exhibition and more traditional acts.

The bands played on the Bill Wells Stage in honor of the late musician and founder of Bill’s Music Shop and Pickin’ Parlor. Wells was honored by the Congaree Bluegrass Festival and has also received an Order of the Palmetto and Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award.

Creamer and his committee are already getting ready to plan for next year’s festival. “Everything we do, we have the City of Cayce in mind,” said Creamer. “I’m involved with a lot of good people and couldn’t be happier than what the Lord has given (this weekend)… good weather, good people.”

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