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Bluegrass festival coming Labor Day weekend

Four bands on tap with fiddle contest, concert, workshops

MILLEDGEVILLE – A longtime music festival is making Milledgeville its new stomping ground.

The Bluegrass Express Reunion Festival, formerly an Aledo staple, will be held next Friday through Sunday at the Carroll County Fairgrounds.

Musicians Jim and Eleanor Barnes founded the festival in 1972 – it’s the oldest active festival in the state – and the family kept it going all these years.

Now the kids are grown and out of state, though, so the Barneses have passed the torch to Gary Underwood of Stockton, and his son, Greg Underwood of Elizabeth, both of the band Bluegrass Express, which will perform at the festival.

The fun will begin at 7 p.m. Friday with a fiddle contest, followed by an open-stage talent showcase.

Instrument workshops kick off the day’s events at 11 a.m. Saturday, followed by bands playing from 1 to 5 and from 7 to 11 p.m.

The festivities will wrap up with a gospel sing starting at 10 a.m. Sunday.

Headlining the event is American Drive, from Stanton, Ky. The band’s recent single, “Long Haul Truckin’ Man,” went No. 1 on the Bluegrass Today Weekly Top 20 Radio Airplay Chart. Members of the band have toured for several years with the legendary J.D. Crowe & The New South, and formed American Drive when Crowe retired from touring in 2012.

Rickey Wasson sang lead vocals and played guitar with Crowe for 14 years – you can hear him loud and clear on J.D. Crowe & The New South’s hit song and album, “Lefty’s Old Guitar,” which garnered a 2008 Grammy nomination, and was a No. 1 song and album on Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine’s National Bluegrass survey charts.

American Drive will play at 4 and 10 p.m.

Bluegrass Express, founded in 1980 by the Underwoods, has been performing more than 30 years. The CD “Summer Rain” was released in 2012. Go to to learn more.

The band will play at 3 and 9 p.m.

Ranging in age from 15 to 20, members of The Burie Family of New Berlin, Wis., took a 2011 Wisconsin Area Music Industry Bluegrass Band of the Year nomination and won the Christian/Gospel Artist of the Year award in 2012 (

The Buries will play at 1 and 7 p.m.

Illinois Rail, of Roanoke, features five veteran bluegrass performers from central Illinois and recently released a new CD. Among the members are 10-time Illinois State Banjo Champion Doug Knecht. You can find the band on Facebook.

Illinois Rail will play at 2 and 8 p.m.

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