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Published 2:26 pm Wednesday, May 31, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - The Niles Bluegrass Festival will be at its biggest and best this year.
The entertainment chair of the event, Tom Majerek, said fans will notice many additions to the fourth installment of the annual festival held at Riverfront Park in downtown Niles.
The festival starts Thursday and runs through Sunday.
For the second time in a month, Family Fun Time Amusements will fill part of the park with carnival rides, games and food. The same group was also in town for the Optimist Spring Fling and Youth Festival.
Additional performers have also been added to this year's line up. And, more bands means more varieties of bluegrass music. The goal, Majerek said, is to give visitors a choice of bluegrass they wish to experience.
The park's amphitheater, which serves as the main stage, is progressing into an Americana stage. Majerek said the bands at the main stage are rooted in bluegrass, but often incorporate a touch of rock, country or jazz into their sound.
As a result, a second stage has been added this year and will allow for more types of bluegrass music and bands with different styles, Majerek said. A portable set used in Niles' other annual festivals will serve as the Traditional Stage at this year's Bluegrass Festival.
Americana Stage performers will include, among others, Schlitz Creek, The Special Consensus, Goldmine Pickers and Grammy-nominated group Audie Blaylock and Redline.
Majerek said many of the bands scheduled for the weekend are familiar with the Niles bluegrass scene. They have either played the festival in previous years, done a Sunday park show or performed at Riverfront Cafe.
Also new to the Niles Bluegrass Festival this year is Spirit of Sunday. The last day of the festival will open and close with a church service at the Traditional stage.
Majerek said the day is a joint effort with the bluegrass festival organizers and the Church of Niles. Pastor Jeff Whittaker of Michiana Christian Embassy in Niles will lead the morning service, beginning at 10 a.m. An afternoon of gospel bluegrass will follow, featuring bands such as Clyde Carr and the Hymn-Tymers and the Balos Family Gospel Singers. An evening service at 6 will then close the Sunday events at the Traditional Stage.
Many of the features festival-goers have been accustomed to the last three years will remain. But, some may be improved this time around. For example, Majerek said people will once again have the opportunity to camp through the festival for a small fee. Only this year, the grounds will be located just north of the concert sight instead of nearly one-quarter mile south by the public boat launch. Boy Scout Troop 550 is handling the camping and will put the profits toward attending summer camp and purchasing a new trailer for their equipment, Majerek said.
Those visiting the festival will also be able to browse more arts and crafts tents and have more food options. Plus, Majerek said the weekend will also offer a bluegrass workshop, a pickers' tent for group jams and banjo and fiddle contests.
Registration for both competitions begins Friday at 5 p.m. The banjo contest starts at 6:30 and is followed by the fiddle contest at 7:30.
Anyone interested in camping information should contact Robert Dunnuck at 683-3645. All information about the 2006 Niles Bluegrass Festival can be found at The festivities start Thursday at 5:30 p.m. with the band Dry Flood.