Would you donate a year of your time trying to resuscitate a dead music festival that you’d previously never really cared about? Jeff Hemmat did, and as a result the Bainbridge Bluegrass Festival (BBF) is coming back this summer after a year hiatus, livelier and more ambitious than ever.
Started by Norman Johnson, a local music lover who wanted to listen to some outdoor bluegrass and help a local charity, the BBF was a hit in its first couple of years; then it slowly trailed off in a whisper due to lack of funds and volunteer enthusiasm. Last year, it was DOA, stating on its website that it was done.
That’s when Jeff Hemmat, an erstwhile event planner decided to get back in the game on behalf of the BBF, a favorite Island event of his wife Dani (Island HoopFit’s Happy HoopMistress). Hemmat contacted the original promoter and set to work on convincing bands, sponsors, volunteers, and the Bainbridge Park District to help bring the festival back to life.
Back in his early event planning days, Hemmat was an original owner of Groove Factory Studios, which cut Candlebox’s successful demo; the creator of Caffe Infinito, a swanky Eastside art and music café that hosted acts like the Colorifics, Dexterity, and VibeSpice; and a former roadie for Candlebox. Those experiences, plus his refusal to settle for less, have put the BBF back on the map.
On July 28 at Battle Point Park, the 6th Annual Bainbridge Bluegrass Festival is bringing a stellar lineup of bands to the Park District’s mobile stage, including the Clumsy Lovers, The Oly Mountain Boys, Abby Mae and the Homeschool Boys, and Side Saddle. The Festival also will include a family fun area, artisan vendors, ferry terminal shuttle service, and a food and beer garden in the open-air amphitheater setting of the Battle Point Park Astronomy Observatory.
Say what? Beer at Battle Point Park? You read that right. According to the BI Park District’s Recreation Services Director John DeMeyer, beer has never been allowed at Battle Point Park. When I asked DeMeyer why now, he smiled and said, “Jeff was persistent. This is a test. We’ll see how it goes.”
When I asked Hemmat about his experience putting the Festival together he told me one of the best parts was connecting with the community on a deeper level: “I’ve been living on the Island for almost 12 years, and I’ve met and talked with more people volunteering for the Festival than ever before.”
BBF 2012 is from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the first band taking the stage at 12:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 through the website or on the day of the event. Discounted tickets will be available two weeks in advance at T&C. Proceeds will benefit West Sound Wildlife Shelter and the Bainbridge Island Special Needs Foundation.
Want to help? Contact Hemmat: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images courtesy of Jeff Hemmat.