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Bluegrass draws crowd and buzzards
The buzzards slowly settled in the eucalyptus trees while the melodious sounds of Patti Torrey singing country and folk ballads by musicians such as Buck Owens, The Flatlanders, Steve Young and others entertained an ever-increasing crowd.
About 150 people attended the BuzzardFest Saturday evening behind the Barn Theatre, Nicki Edwards estimated, and Mike Proctor thought it was almost as successful as last year. “We have such a great time at the festival,” said Edwards, “But we are always trying to improve and already have plans for next year.”
After Torrey finished her first couple of songs, she said, “Thank you. It’s a pleasure to play here and support the Barn Theatre. It is one of the oldest continuously playing community theaters.”
She joked with the audience, “Anyone been to Bakersfield?” And sang “The Streets of Bakersfield,” “Going Away,” and “Seven Bridges Road,” accompanied by musicians Jim Bailey and Royal H. Garrison.
Torrey then sang “Mr. Radio,” and commented, “Imagine working your fields all day, seeing no one, and then coming home with your only contact with the outside world being a radio.”
She continued to play more music, and said, “The buzzards are circling round the wagons, searching for dinner.” Torrey sang, “Don’t pass me by, if you’re only passing through” and then “Moondance” by Van Morrison.
Sara Lee Gershon, a supporter of the Barn, attended the BuzzardFest and thoroughly enjoyed the music. She said that her husband started a buzzard festival in the Kern River Valley where they manage a research center. They count the buzzards and send the information to the National Ornithological Society in Maryland. Turkey vultures or buzzards are an indicator species for the federal avian population, and the species is necessary for the habitat.
Ralph Bourne, who organizes the festival, briefly spoke about the significance of the turkey vulture and called “Ricky Roadkill” home, while he played the keyboards and sang a humorous song to the vultures.
Songwriter and lead singer Dan Stein then introduced Sycamore Bend, a Fresno bluegrass group, with song writer and musician Michael McDonald, who plays the mandolin. Steve Hall on the banjo, and Travis McDonald on the bass.
They play old-fashioned American bluegrass music to an audience of older folks and some younger families in chairs and on hay bales, who enjoyed meals of polish and dinner sausages, homemade coleslaw and potato salad, and assorted beverages, while children and Nikki Simmerman’s Girl Scout Troup helped deliver food.
Stein addressed the appreciative crowd, and said that the BuzzardFest reminds him of Hitchcock’s “The Birds”, and that the band was happy to be there for the second year.
The group stayed late but finished with “Wagon Wheels” written by Bob Dylan, too which many people sang along, which was an appropriate ending for the musical evening.
Carolyn Harris said, “I think everyone had such a good time. It was so nice to see everyone enjoying the music.” Harris cooked all the food for the festival. “And the buzzards. They really performed for us tonight.”