The seventh Grape Jam in four years appeared to continue the pattern of growth its predecessors showed.
“It's been good,” said Robert Tessaro, chairman of the Grape Jam for the St. James Chamber of Commerce.
“We've had great weather. All the vendors I've spoken to have been happy and said they want to come back next time. The weather's been beautiful, and we've had a lot of people out for it.”
The Grape Jam bluegrass and craft festival started Friday night with a concert by Rosa Stringworks. Saturday, there was a fiddle contest in the afternoon and a concert by Grammy award winner Clay Hess and his band in the evening.
“We probably had 250 people at the fiddlers' contest,” Tessaro said. “We had over 350 at the Rosa concert Friday night.”
Tessaro said he was hoping for more than that Saturday night at the Clay Hess Band concert, and it appeared that he had what he wished for.
Hess, the lead guitarist, lead vocalist and songwriter, along with bassist Irl Hees, mandolinist Ryan Moyers, banjo picker Josh Hymer and rhythm guitarist Brennan Hess, performed valiantly despite a troublesome sound system.
A passing train also interrupted them - the new bandstand is on East Washington Street, which runs parallel with the train tracks - while performing their radio hit, “Rain.”
After the train passed, they began again, and changed the lyrics a bit. In place of singing, “rain, go away,” they sang, “train, go away,' to the applause of the St. James audience.
The winners in the old-time fiddle contest were as follows:
Youth division, 16 and under; Carina Baker, Birch Tree, 1st; Tanner Marriott, Ava, 2nd; Emma Linkeman, Rolla, 3rd.
Senior division: Howard Marshall, Fulton, 1st; Melvin Roberts, Cherryville, 2nd; Lloyd A. Vitt, Potosi, 3rd.
Open Division: Junior Marriott, Ava, 1st; Trustin Baker, Birch Tree, 2nd; Roger Netherton, St. Louis, 3rd.
The fiddle contest had five entries its first year. Last year, there were 18 entries. This past weekend, there were 14 contestants, a high number considering the number of other fiddle contests going on in Southern Missouri this weekend.
The weekend Grape Jam event included craftsmen and vendors set up in tents on East Washington Street.
And there was plenty of music with people sitting and jamming in various places.