LAKE ALFRED — The wind and the cold may have dampened attendance, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of some 1,000 people who came to Lake Alfred on Saturday for a lot of bluegrass music and a little barbecue — or vice versa.
“We had doubts about the weather, but we came because Lake Alfred is such a beautiful place and the music is beautiful,” said Priscilla Cooper, 78, of Orlando, at the 2018 Lake Alfred Bluegrass & BBQ Bash. “I love bluegrass music.”
Still, Cooper was bundled up against the elements with a heavy coat, scarf and knit hat while under a canopy listening to the bluegrass bands. Only the stage protected her from the winds sweeping across the lake.
The Florida Automated Weather Network station in Lake Alfred showed temperatures dipped into the mid 50s by the time the festival started at 11 a.m. with wind speeds as high as 18 mph.
Joey Foley, the event promoter, said he expected probably about 1,000 people to show up, about half the usual crowd because of the weather.
But the people who braved the elements are enthusiastic bluegrass fans, he added.
“These folks are cold, but you can see they’ve all got their toes tapping,” Foley said.
The festival featured several Florida bands, including Rekindled Grass, Southern Express Bluegrass and Dixie Bluegrass Express. It also featured performances by clog dancing acts Clogging Connection and M&M Cloggers.
Vivian Means, 73, of Lakeland, said she was a bluegrass fan but came especially for the clog dancers because that’s what her late daughter, Brenda Sue Keller, loved so much. She passed on Dec. 15, 2016, at age 52.
“She loved the cloggers, and I do too,” Means said.
Then there were people like Jack and Stephanie Richmond of Lake Alfred, who came mostly for the barbecue, they said.
“I’m eating because I’m seven months pregnant,” said Stephanie Richmond, 32, who was munching on pulled pork nachos.
Although Jack Richmond, 34, grew up in Lake Alfred, this was the first time he attended the local festival, he said.
Bluegrass is okay, he said, but he loves the barbecue. The weather did not deter him because he works in refrigeration.
The weather made it difficult to pick and pluck on the typical bluegrass string instruments — banjo, guitar and bass — said Royce Burt of Plant City, a banjo player with Rekindled Grass.
“It’s difficult on the banjo because you need dexterity; you have to play fast,” Burt said. “But I managed.”
Rekindled Grass vocalist and guitar player C.J. McClellan of Lakeland said he enjoyed the opportunity to play at the Lake Alfred festival, the new band’s first public performance.
Rekindled Grass was formed from experienced musicians from other bands, said McClellan, 54, who has played and sung bluegrass since his boyhood.
Burt said he’s played with other bands for more than 20 years.
“I was excited to get this band together. We have great people and great musicians,” McClellan said.
Cooper agreed. She named Rekindled Grass as her favorite band on Saturday’s bill.
“They blended so nicely,” she said.
The bluegrass festival started in Haines City 17 years ago, Foley said, but it lost that venue when the city rebuilt Lake Eva Park.
A Lake Alfred resident, Foley offered the festival to his hometown six years ago, and it’s been there since.
“They were very excited about having me,” he said.
City Commissioner Jack Dearmin, who also braved the weather to attend, agreed.
“It’s become a tradition since it started,” he said. “This is what it’s all about in Lake Alfred.”
Kevin Bouffard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 863-401-6980.