Darrington Bluegrass Festival returns after two-year pause

Now in its 45th year, the three-day festival features bluegrass with a mountain backdrop and camping in the woods.

DARRINGTON — Bluegrass is back.

After a two-year hiatus, the Darrington Bluegrass Festival is set to return July 15-17.

Guests can expect three days of bluegrass music and camping in the woods at the scenic Darrington Bluegrass Music Park.

This year’s festival will feature nine acts.

“We got a killer lineup this year,” said Paul Shuler, president of the Darrington Bluegrass Association.

The past two festivals were canceled due to COVID-19. Shuler said three of the four headliners set to perform in 2020 will take the stage this year.

The four headliners will be: Rhonda Vincent & The Rage; Wayne Taylor & Appaloosa; The Chapmans; Zach Top and Modern Tradition. The other bands are The Lonesome Town Painters, Fern Hill, Kenny Stinson & Perfect Tym’n, Kentucky Sky and North Country.

A few bands hail from the Pacific Northwest, Shuler said.

He said the festival is going in a more modern direction. For the first time, the festival will accept credit cards and offer Wi-Fi.

“We could tell we needed to upgrade,” he said. “There’s a lot of good things from the past and lot of things that needed to be changed.”

Some bands will bring a modern flair to the traditional bluegrass sound.

“This year, we do have a young group (Zach Top & Modern Tradition),” he said. “It’s good bluegrass, but it does have a fresher sound.”

In 2019, the Darrington Bluegrass Association remodeled the stage at the music park. This year will be the first audiences will see the upgrades.

The first Darrington Bluegrass Festival took place in 1977. The festival was founded by people who moved to Darrington from North Carolina. Bluegrass music can be traced back to immigrants from Ireland, Scotland and England who settled in the Appalachian region.

After starting small, the festival now draws about 5,000 to 7,000 a year, Shuler said.

He said it was “heartbreaking” to cancel the festival two years in a row.

“It’s pretty much the same format (this year), but it’s kind of like starting over,” he said.

Three-day passes are on sale now at darringtonbluegrass.com. There is a discounted rate before June 30. Camping spots can also be purchased online.

Guests will be able to purchase one-day tickets at the gate during the festival.

Jacqueline Allison: 425-339-3434; jacqueline.allison@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @jacq_allison.