LeMars, Iowa…..The home of the largest ice cream factory in the world, LeMars, Iowa, is preparing to welcome Muskogee, Oklahoma, residents, the Crystal River Band to their city.  The group is to be inducted into America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame, on Tuesday, August 30, in Iowa.
     The Hall of Fame has been in existence since 1976, when Bob Everhart, President of the National Traditional Country Music Association, formed a 501(c)3 non-profit group devoted to the preservation, perpetuation, and performance of America’s ‘rural’ country music.  “We called it the National Traditional Country Music Association, and we had to find a way to better define what we do,” Everhart said recently, “because the country music we represent is quite different than the country music we mostly hear coming from Nashville these days.  For the past 36 years, we have been working hard, to not only capture the essence of what country music once was, but to keep it alive, and honor those that have made significant contributions to the genre in more recent years.  Therefore we have taken up the word ‘rural’ to better define what our ‘country’ music is all about.”
     Country music in Everhart’s opinion might be ‘rural,’ but the contributors come from all walks of life, and offer many different styles from the past.  “We just never cease to be amazed at the wonderful parade of country music performers that come to our annual convention-festival,” Everhart added.  “It’s actually the largest old-time acoustic music event in the entire upper Midwest, and includes great participation from bluegrass, folk, and even rag-time and old-time fiddle music performers, as well as country.  By keeping it acoustic, we are able to better present what country music sounded like during it’s golden age.  We’re also able to present more stages for the performers.  We’re now utilizing ten of them.  Can you imagine that, ten stages running 9am to midnight every day for seven days, and we are still having difficulties getting everyone on that wants to be on.  Performers of America’s classic country, bluegrass, and folk music, aren’t just Americans, they come from around the world.”
     The 2011 dates for this unique gathering of thousands of old-time country, bluegrass, and folk music fans is August 29 through September 4th, at the Plymouth County Fairgrounds in LeMars, Iowa.  “We have several really large buildings to use for the performances,” Everhart added, “our main-stage building is even air conditioned.  It seats 1,000 comfortably, and the next door adjoining building, which we call the dance-hall, is equally as large.  Last year we had Bill Anderson from the Grand Ole Opry for Hall of Fame induction, and he had to do two shows, one on the main stage, and then another on the dance hall stage.  The legendary Patti Page was with us last year as well, and it was a similar experience.  This year Jim Ed Brown, Helen Cornelius, and Jeannie Seely are with us from the Grand Ole Opry, and we have several performers who were on the Louisiana Hayride.  The legendary Bonnie Guitar will be with us too.  Ms. Guitar recorded “Dark Moon” a number of years ago, but is perhaps best known for her tutoring two groups to fame, the Fleetwoods and the Ventures.  Neither of these groups are ‘country’ music oriented, but it was Bonnie Guitar that showed them how to play unique and different methods and styles on the guitar.  Super-pickers find their way to our corn-field too,” Everhart added.  “We’re not really in a corn-field, but we could be.  Eddie Pennington, a ‘Merle Travis’ style guitar picker will be with us, as will the famous Tut Taylor, who performs on the resonator guitar.  Both of these pickers come from Kentucky.  Oklahoma fiddler Jake Simpson, and three-time world champion flat-picker from the Winfield, Kansas, competitions, Jason Shaw will also be on hand.  Add to that about 600 more pickers and players, and you have a good idea of what this unique event is all about.”
     “The Crystal River Band, from Muskogee, Oklahoma, is also unique,” Everhart added.  “They have attained a sizable fan base in their home-state of Oklahoma, and devote much of their music to the composition and style of early Oklahoma country and gospel.  The group is made up of Cookie Eller (keyboard and vocal), Jody Bill Green (bass and vocal), Stan Gray (guitar), G. C. Moore (guitar and vocal), and Herb Battenfield (bass).  They have enjoyed tremendous success in keeping the older style of country music alive in Oklahoma for the past six years.  On a recent tour to Indiana, the group was discovered by the Gaithers, well-known gospel music performers and talent promoters.  From that meeting, they were asked to perform on the Gaither Fall Festival, which is also televised and hosted by Bill Gaithers, a nationally known old-time gospel music performer and presentor.”
     “We expect a large crowd for Crystal River. They will  be performing on the main stage, to receive a standing ovation of appreciation from the audience, for their great contributions to America’s old time ‘rural’ music, “Everhart noted, “but they will also be with us the whole week performing on various stages.” 
     “Aside from great Blue Bunny ice cream, we have some of the best mid-west corn-fed beef steaks in the world at our food court,” added Everhart.  “Super good food, super good music, and super good inter-action between musicians make for a lot of impromptu ‘jam sessions.’  There’s also a Tipi Village where a lot of pickers hang-out, and we also have a Pioneer Exposition of Arts, Crafts, and Rural American Agricultural Lifestyle for those that need extra things to do.  What profits we might make goes to the Pioneer Music Museum which is located in Anita, Iowa, which is home to ‘America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame.’  Great RV camping with electricity ($12 per day), and we caution all visitors to bring lawn chairs for their own comfort.  Admission is $15 per day, per person (which includes all ten stages and all celebrities) or a 7-day open gate pass for $60 per person, which includes all ten stages of entertainment.’
     More information about the festival, and the activities of the National Traditional Country Music Association can be found at their website:

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