Bluegrass bands played during the annual Bluegrass festival in the Dairy Barn. The festival continues into Saturday. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)
Bluegrass bands played during the annual Bluegrass festival in the Dairy Barn. The festival continues into Saturday. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)

VAN WERT – The sounds of banjos, guitars and plenty of Gospel music could be heard wafting throughout the southern part of the Van Wert County Fairgrounds on Thursday evening as eighth annual Bluegrass Festival kicked off.

Many celebrated their faith and acclaimed their unity with others who appreciate the Gospel flare and the enthusiasm of the instruments and singing.

“It reminds me of our home in Heaven and other fellow believers,” commented Rosa VanGundy of Van Wert. “I’m glad we can be singing together and all be one.”

Jean Loveland, who drove to Van Wert from Monroe, Michigan, said that she travels all over to such events. She enjoys Van Wert as a “high quality” place and said that she especially enjoys the friendliness of the community.

“I like to be together with all the people and listen to all the groups,” said Loveland. “I love the gospel hour. They are all such friendly people.”

Bruce Pettinger from Marshall, Michigan, has been a bluegrass person all of his life and used to play a banjo in a singing group.

“I played Gospel music for 18 years,” said Pettinger. “Coming here is like coming back to our own family.”

“I love the camaraderie and closeness of all of the people,” said Bruce’s wife, Sandy. “It’s like you get together and already know everyone.”

Thursday evening they enjoyed the country flavor as they sat on an old bench in front of one of the stalls in the Dairy Barn.

Bluegrass Festival founder Steve Scott welcomed close friends on Thursday night and said he hadn’t appeared on stage with the group for 40 years. He also enumerated a recent tragedy and said that the gathering for Gospel encouragement was a good atmosphere for sharing prayer requests and to encourage each other.

“Bluegrass music is 100 percent American music,” said Scott. “It came out of the south; it is old mountain music, and I love it.”

Middletown, Ohio residents Sue and Howard Joneis had attended the festival seven years ago and decided to return.

“We saw a flyer about it and decided to return,” said Sue. “Steve Scott gave us a special invitation to the first one that we came to.”

“I really enjoy bluegrass music, especially Gospel music,” said Howard. “We’re having a good time. I’m glad that we came again.”