BROOKSVILLE — Florida’s oldest bluegrass festival is returning to Hernando County after a brief hiatus in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic shut all events down.
Evans Media Source has put together a lineup of Grammy Award-winning artists mixed in with national favorites for the EMS Spring Fest on March 25-27 at Sertoma Youth Ranch, 85 Myers Road, Brooksville.
Tickets are still available at $85 for a weekend pass or individually at $40 for Thursday, $35 for Friday, and $45 for Saturday. Tickets for youth 10-15 years of age are $15 for the weekend or $5 per day. Children 9 and younger are admitted free. RV hookups for water and electricity are $25 nightly, or dry camping is available for $15 nightly.
“We have some really good acts coming,” said Ernie Evans, festival manager. “A lot of people are familiar with Chris Stapleton; his band just before he made it will play his music that he wrote, and they’re called The SteelDrivers; they’re unbelievable. It wasn’t that long ago he was a member of that group, it’s kind of where he got his launch.”
Other notable acts are Jim Lauderdale, Songs from the Road, Sideline, Alex Leach Band, Nothin’ Fancy, The Darren Nicholson Band, Remedy Tree, Justin Mason & Blue Night, Born Lonesome, and Low Ground.
New to this year’s festivities will be “full moon jams,” an activity that will conclude the evening once the main stage performer has finished. Evans said he was inspired to include this as the festival will take place shortly before the full moon on March 28, and also because some of the most fun things to do at a music festival is jamming around a campfire.
“A lot of people that come for the day never get to experience that,” he said. “They get out of their car, wander the concert area, watch the shows, get back in their car and go back home. They don’t even know that goes on. So, we’re going to have the later part of the shows in the campground at a couple of different places so people get a chance to experience that setting.”
Patrons who arrive at the festival will get their temperature taken each day, and organizers ask that they wear a mask in congested areas, such as bathrooms and when communicating with staff. Hand sanitizer stations will be set up throughout the festival and festivalgoers are asked to bring their own chair. The festival will feature a “safe zone,” which is a mandatory mask environment. Additionally, each guest will receive a lanyard with a smiley face holding an umbrella stating, “I’ll take a rain check” to politely let others know you are not allowing hugs/handshakes from others.
Other activities will include a children’s play area where there will be face painting, hay rides, an instrument zoo, and arts and crafts sponsored by the youth ranch. Adult activities can be found at the Soggy Bottom Pavilion and will include bingo at 10:30 a.m. daily, bean bag toss, Jenga, and card games upon request.
“It’s going to be a real good cultural experience,” Evans said. “We end the festival on Sunday morning with a Gospel sing. There’s a little something there for everybody.”
This will be Evans’ eighth year hosting the EMS Spring Fest along with his wife, and 2021 will mark the 43rd year of the bluegrass festival at Sertoma Youth Ranch. Proceeds will help to fund the operations of the youth ranch. The couple host music festivals from South Florida to the Virginia line year-round.
Evans said he met his wife playing music 40 years ago, and they became interested in hosting festivals 20 years ago as a way to stay connected to music once they started missing the tour life. Evans is a third-generation banjo player and his children also picked up playing instruments as well.
“Both of us have been immersed in music all of our lives, so it’s a dream come true,” Evans said.
For more information, visit www.evansmediasource.com or call 386-385-3500.