Annual bluegrass and craft festival begins Friday on Washington Street

St. James residents will gather along side visitors from throughout the Midwest this weekend with goals to hear or play some good music while enjoying good food and shopping an annual craft festival.
To make this possible, the St. James Chamber of Commerce is hosting the fourth Grape Jam Bluegrass and Craft Festival Friday and Saturday.
"There were about 750 people for the Chapmans last year," event organizer Robert Tessaro said, "I am always hopeful that we'll get an even better turnout this year."
This year's headliner is the Grammy Award nomnated Clay Hess Band, which has played with notables in the bluegrass world such as Ricky Skaggs, Kentucky Thunder, Sierra Hull and Highway 111.
Tessaro said the cost associated with brining in nationally known headliner acts like The Clay Hess Band have caused the Chamber of Commerce to reduce the Grape Jam from a twice-a-year event to an annual event, but he hopes the downgraded frequency of the event is compensated by quality.
The Clay Hess Band will take the stage for free concert at the Walker Pavilion at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Also taking the stage under the pavilion during the event will be local band Rosa Stringworks Jam Band, lead by Jerry Rosa of Newburg. The Rosa Stringworks Jam Band will perform Friday evening at 7 p.m.
The fiddle contest is also back this year, after drawing talent from all over the Midwest last year.
"The word's been spread real well, so we are hoping to have an even bigger turnout for that this year," Tessaro said.
In addition to pure competative spirit and the chance to show off their talent, fiddle players of all ages are being lured tot he competition with more than $800 in prizes.
For those who aren't ready to compete, or maybe the banjo is your pickin' instrument of choice, jam sessions will be taking place Saturday evening and all day Friday.
"Typically, if it's good weather and everything, they'll play until about midnight or so on Friday, and then again until about midnight on Saturday," Tessaro said.
Tessaro urges patrons to bring a lawn chair if they plan to watch any of the concerts, as some seating is provided but is very limited.
If the music doesn't draw you to the event, Tessaro hopes the craft festival will.
He expects the vendors to occupy the entirety of East Washington Street with a little bit of help from some inflatable rides and games for children and a few fair food vendors.
Festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday and continue at noon Saturday.