ALTOONA — Altoona residents Jack Blackburn and Nancy Nevinski love to dance. So much so that they don’t mind dancing in front of an audience when the opportunity comes along.
Opportunity certainly came knocking on Saturday at the WHYS Bluegrass Festival at Lake Altoona County Park. The festival raises money for the volunteer-run radio station in Eau Claire.
Blackburn and Nevinski periodically got up from their love-seat lawn chair to dance along to the various bands performing Saturday afternoon.
“We’re pacing ourselves,” Nevinski said.
The couple wanted to ensure they could stay out and dance all day, as the festival ran until 8 p.m.
The sweethearts have been together three years, they said, and they’ve attended the festival the same number of years. They go to a lot of live music shows around the area, where they’ll oftentimes get up and boogie.
“You get to know the bands. They’re so appreciative of the dancing,” Nevinski said. “It’s their best applause.”
The bands alternated between the two stages set up at the park, so the audience members would pick up their lawn chairs and shuffle to the other side once each act was finished.
Both stages were surrounded by trees, which offered the attendees plenty of shade on the sunny day. Audience members were often seen holding a drink in one hand and a lineup flier in the other, bobbing their heads and tapping their feet along to the music.
The first group to perform during the day, the Ukulele Klub of Eau Claire, has performed at the festival for four years.
Two of the group’s members, Marjorie Craemer and Teresa Jolivette, have been playing with the Ukulele Klub for five and six years, respectively.
“People are getting together to support something meaningful and beautiful,” Craemer said of the music.
Sitting front row in their lawn chairs were Minnesota residents Betty and John Peden, who had heard about the festival and wanted to make the trip out to see the bands.
Betty said she enjoyed the music and she was excited about the “beautiful backdrop,” referring to Lake Altoona right behind her.
Later in the afternoon, Rock Creek Song Dogs, a Mondovi-based group, performed songs from their newest album, “Perseverance and Gin.” They even gave the audience a peak into their new album set for this March when they sang “Dead Man Picking.”
While many acts were made up of locals, such as Greg Gilbertson and Billy Krause, the festival highlighted some out-of-towers as well.
Grassfed, a band from Kansas City, played at The Mousetrap Tavern awhile ago, and they were told they should play this festival.
“We play some originals and some old time songs,” said Cameron Keeling, the band’sbass player.
Ben Johnson, a WHYS volunteer, said this year’s attendance was the highest he’s ever seen in the festival’s 10-years-or-so-long run.
“We designed it to provide a relaxed, fun day to help raise money for the radio station that’s volunteer-run,” Johnson said.
The festival typically raises enough money to account for half of WHYS’ yearly budget, but Johnson said this year’s attendance may lead to more funds raised.