Editor's note: As of late Thursday morning, event has been postponed until Saturday, Sept. 19. Executive Director Wayne Gannaway said the threat of rain postponed the event out of caution related to the desire to ensure participants can maintain safe distances.
"We don't want to force people to shelter under umbrellas or have them running into the museum and getting packed in. That's the scenario we wanted to avoid," he said.
It’s time to hoot and holler for history -- because the History Center of Olmsted County is putting on a hootenanny. The event, taking place on Sept. 19, is called Bluegrass and Bites, and there will be plenty of both to keep attendees happy.
Catch three bluegrass-influenced acts -- Root River Jam, the Double Down Daredevils, and Becky Schlegel joined by Clint Birtzer and Eric Christopher of the High 48s. Come hungry because some of the area’s finest pop up food vendors, including Taco JED and Forager Brewery, will also be putting out tasty eats. The afternoon is going to be a party -- but one that helps preserve the 1860s-era George Stoppel Farmstead.
Wayne Gannaway, the executive director at the center, said his team “thought a bluegrass event would be a good fit for the George Stoppel Farmstead because the farm is more downhome, vernacular.” The event also takes into account Dr. Charlie Mayo’s fondness for farmers.
“Apparently a group of farmers once played an impromptu jam session for him at Mayowood Mansion,” Gannaway said. “I don’t know if they played bluegrass, but no doubt someone played a fiddle and guitar.”
While the history center’s board has a fund to preserve its historic buildings, Gannaway says the cost involved in preserving the Stoppel farmstead “far exceeds” available funds. He hopes that the hootenanny will bring awareness to the important county landmark.
In fact, the Stoppel barn is and was a “flagship of the 1860s farmstead.” It includes a stone house, a smokehouse, and caves.
“The barn itself illustrates early trends to diversify, rather than focusing singularly on wheat, including raising cattle and producing high-grade butter in bulk,” said Gannaway, who plans to open the barn and cave for interpretive tours after the pandemic ends.
Gannaway said the pandemic has limited some of the new events the center hoped to program this year, but that as health officials have been providing guidelines for public events, the Bluegrass and Bites hootenanny seemed to be possible with a smaller audience.
Schlegel is looking forward to playing some hard-driving bluegrass, some classic country, and some originals at the hootenanny to support the important cause.
“Historic barns are wonderful staples of rural America, and they are slowly disappearing,” she said. “It makes my heart smile when they can be preserved.”
In addition to Schlegel’s group, those that attend the hootenanny will also hear the multi-part harmonies of the six-piece Double Down Daredevils and the energetic mix of Americana originals and covers performed by the four-piece Root River Jam.
Like Schlegel, David Wilson, the frontman for Root River jam is glad he can make music in support of the Stoppel farmstead.
“I am a big history fan and love to see old things preserved," he said. "Now, more than ever, the History Center needs the community’s financial support to preserve the site’s most historical architecture."
He also feels “fortunate” to have an opportunity to make music in this time of pandemic since playing live has been “more of a challenge with cancellations.”
While the center's funding mission is important, Gannaway said that the Bluegrass and Bites hootenanny will be an opportunity to “simply relax under an open sky, in your own socially distanced space, and enjoy live music with your friends and family.”
If You Go
What: Bluegrass and Bites
Where: History Center of Olmsted County, 1195 West Circle Dr., Rochester
When: 12-6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19 (postponed due to inclement weather)
Cost: Adults $15, age 15 and under $10 at www.eventbrite.com/e/bluegrass-and-bites-a-hootenanny-at-the-history-center-tickets-115531238043