Annual bluegrass festival transformed in Unicoi County

By Julie Fann
Star Staff

Though the 34th Annual Slagle's Pasture Bluegrass Festival traditionally held in Carter County is now in the past, a Roan Mountain couple is hosting a similar event this weekend in Unicoi County that they hope will carry the festival into the future.
   Jada and Mike Blevins, owners of Grand View Ranch in Limestone Cove, will offer a similar setting and atmosphere on 48 acres of lush land Friday night and Saturday.
   "It's gonna' be great! They announced last June at Slagle's Pasture that they were not going to have their festival any longer, so I decided to do my own," Jada Blevins said. "It's my first, big bluegrass festival."
   Blevins, who expects approximately 1,000 people to attend the event, said die-hard bluegrass fans won't care if it's sunny or raining. "I have a moveable stage in a wide open field with the mountain as a backdrop that is just beautiful. It sits down in the valley," she said.
   The show begins Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. and will feature acts such as the Linville Ridge Boys, the Spivey Mountain Boys, Sagegrass, the Banjo Bandits, E.C. Miller Band, Tomahawk, Generation Gap, Slappin' Leather Western Dance Association, and the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers.
   Blevins said an Elvis Presley impersonator is also on the playlist. John Green, who hails from Newland, N.C. will perform Friday night at 7 p.m. "We're going to bring him in in a white limousine with some police escorts," she said.
   The event has been advertised in area newspapers and on radio stations and will offer full concessions, camping with full hookups, restrooms and bath houses. Blevins said she will have 6 to 7 friends and family helping her with food preparations.
   Clayton Slagle, an intense bluegrass music fan, initiated the festival, traditionally held on the second weekend of June, in 1968. Over the years, the festival has featured famous musicians fans of the music know such as Dr. Ralph Stanley, Allison Kraus, Grandpa Jones, and Charlie Monroe.
   "My dad was a big bluegrass fan, and he and Ralph Stanley were good friends. Ralph Stanley has played it just about since we had it," said Tony Slagle, Clayton's only son.
   Tony Slagle said the reason the family decided not to continue the festival tradition is due to the work involved in planning the event, coupled with the fact that family members are now building homes on the land where it was held.
   "Dad planned on having his last festival in 2001. He passed away in May just a month before the festival. It got so big we ran outta room, and the motor homes got so big we ran out of power, and it wasn't nobody but me and him. I tell ya', honey, it's a job to put on somethin' like that."
   Clayton Slagle died at the age of 77, and his wife, Virginia Slagle, 78, died on Feb. 22, 2003 on her birthday. The couple booked all of the musical acts, which came from all over the country and the county, while their son did most of the physical preparations, including mowing approximately 25 acres of land.
   "Just the mowing was about 40 to 50 hours a week. We rented fields next door. We had around 300 campsites plus restrooms, two restaurants, one full-size and a small one in the back of a large barn," Slagle said. "We had 18 to 23 cooks, and about 3,500 people came. By the time you get 40 or 50 bands together and their family you've got a lot of people right there before you even have music. We kept all the grandkids for parkin'."
   Slagle said he wishes Jada and Mike Blevins much luck as they begin a similar festival this year.
   "I wish her all the best in the world. I know she's got a lot of work for her cut out, and it takes a lot," he said.
   Tickets for the bluegrass festival at Grand View Ranch cost $10 for one night and $15 for two nights. For more information, contact Jada Blevins at 423-743-3382.