2008 - 30th anniversary of COOMBS BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL

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submitted by Jim Brown

The history of the Coombs Bluegrass Festival actually started with the Coombs Community Organization reviving the Coombs Country Opera. This was an event where musicians could come to the Old Hall in Coombs and perform in front of an audience. It became so popular that they out grew the Old Hall.

The Coombs Community Organization, led by Worris Key and some of the performers came up with the idea to have a "Bluegrass Festival". This seemed to be a good way to raise some money with the hopes of building a new Hall. Since this had not been done in Western Canada before, it was a bit scary as no one had an idea of what we were in store for, but we did it.

The Coombs Bluegrass Festival came to be in 1978, thanks to some very dedicated people and a whole bunch of volunteers. To name just a few Worris Key and myself Jim Brown from the Coombs Community Organization and performers Riel Aubchion, Joe Bochek and Gerry Patch made it happen.

Our first festival was on a farm - The Arrowsmith #1 Farm, August 18th - 20th, 1978. Headline performers were the Zig-Zag Mountain String from Quesnel, Cathy Fink and Duck Donald from Ontario, and Coombs locals the Backroom Boys.

The second Fesitival was held at the Coombs Rodeo Grounds to better handle the crowds and they have been held at this venue evers since. We have had performers from all across Canada and the United States over the last thirty years, some from as far away as Texas. The Coombs Bluegrass Festival has been a great outdoor show and has made a lot of people happy becoming a premier summer Bluegrass Festival stop held on the August long weekend annually.

While web surfing, I stumbled across your website. What caught my attention was your history page and I thought I would share some information.
In the early and mid 70’s, Mike Key was a close friend and we spent a lot of time together. Some of that time was at his parents house so I knew his mom and dad. At the same time, I was managing and doing sound for a local band named “Hot Damn”. Mike’s dad was aware that I was doing sound and that I had access to a sound system when he started promoting the “Coombs Country Opera” and got me involved the first year or two. My memory is quite hazy about when it began and how long it lasted but I think it started in 1974 or 1975 and the first time lasted only a year or two. It was revived at least once or twice but my involvement was only for the first time around. I moved to Edmonton in 1976 and was no longer available.
The original Coombs Country Opera included bluegrass music but not exclusively…any country music seemed to be quite acceptable. The monthly CCO night was a community social event that brought people together aged 8 to 80 and from all different walks of life. There were no rules…any one could perform most anything they wanted (other than loud rock and roll). I was unaware that the CCO morphed into a bluegrass festival until I checked out your website.
I went to Qualicum Beach Secondary School and I think I was in the same grade as Gerry Patch. We hung out in high school as well as after graduation. During and just after high school, Gerry was an acoustic guitar player and he was all about folk music. I don’t remember him getting into banjo for several years after graduation. I also can’t remember if he ever played the CCO on one of the nights I did sound.
That’s about it for my memories (or lack there of). Hope you found this at least a little bit interesting.
Dennis Awrey

Got any Coombs Bluegrass memories or stories you'd like to share?
send them along to   info@coombsbluegrass.com

for more photos from festivals over the years
A Coombs Hilliers Recreation and Community Organization Production