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New bluegrass festival hits Belhaven this weekend

BELHAVEN — There’ll be plenty of picking and grinning on the Pungo this weekend, as Arts of the Pamlico and the Belhaven Community Chamber of Commerce team up to present Belhaven’s inaugural Pickin’ on the Pungo Bluegrass Festival.

The festival is the first of its kind in Belhaven, and part of Arts of the Pamlico’s efforts to serve areas of the county besides Washington.

“The idea came about from a joint interest in (Arts of the Pamlico) being able to offer art and culture events outside of Washington,” said Debra Torrence, executive director of Arts of the Pamlico. “Our service delivery area is Beaufort and Washington counties. We’ve spent the bulk of our time focusing on really increasing the programming at the theatre. This is one of the strategies that we have to start to expand outside of the theatre to meet our mission.”

The weekend kicks off Friday night with a community bonfire and drum circle at the Belhaven Market, featuring a special performance from the Northside High School Drumline at 6:30 p.m. The drum circle itself will begin at 7:30 p.m., and participants are encouraged to bring instruments like hand drums, shakers, wood blocks and cowbells.

“It will be the first drum circle ever held in Belhaven, so I think people will come out just to see what it is,” said Belhaven Community Chamber of Commerce Director Diana Lambeth.

Starting Saturday at 10 a.m., a stellar lineup of bluegrass artists will take over the Wilkinson Center stage. The festival offers a full day of music, followed by an after party at the Tavern at Jack’s Neck.

The lineup for the day is as follows:

  • 10 a.m. — Beaufort County Traditional Music Association
  • 11:30 a.m. — Lunch break to eat local
  • 12:45 p.m. — Uncle John & the Hollis Trio
  • 2 p.m. — Wyldwood
  • 3:15 p.m. — Cumberland County Line
  • 4:30 p.m. — Youth Showcase
  • 5:30 p.m. — Supper break to eat local
  • 7 p.m. — Constant Change
  • 8:15 to 9:15 p.m. — Mill Run Band
  • 9:30 p.m. — After party at the Tavern at Jack’s Neck

“All the bands are bluegrass musicians, some pretty well known,” Torrence said. “Then we have a youth talent showcase that has some local youth that will be playing bluegrass music as well.”

While the festival will highlight that musical talent, it also serves a dual purpose by giving local businesses a bump in sales during their slow season. Lambeth says she hopes those who come from out of town will remember Belhaven in their future travel plans.

“My hope is that it will bring in people from other areas in eastern North Carolina and across the state,” Lambeth said. “Bluegrass has a big following. We are hoping to show off our pretty town, have people like being here and want to come back. … We are hoping this will be an annual event, primarily because there is usually nothing going on in the wintertime. This gives us an opportunity to help our businesses during the wintertime.”

Tickets are $10 cash and $12 with a credit card when purchased in advance at www.artsofthepamlico.org, the Turnage Theatre in downtown Washington or the Belhaven Community Chamber of Commerce. Tickets for kids 12 and younger are $5. At the door, the cost is $15 cash or $17 with a card.