JamesHerron, JayAndGaryDevineJames Herron (left) as Jeb Stuart with father and son Gary and Jay Devine from the Irish & American Historic Society, based in Omagh, who dressed as members of the 22nd North Carolina Infantry.

FANS of a wide range of Americana music descended on the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh this weekend for the biggest bluegrass festival in Europe.

Local Irish and Northern Irish bands were joined by groups travelling from Belgium and the US to play the award winning Omagh Bluegrass Festival.Cup O Joe Benjamin (18), Tabitha (13) & Reuben (16) Agnew from bluegrass band Cup O’Joe, the youngest band to play the festival. The band are from Mowhan in Co Armagh.

The event, which runs until this evening, is estimated to attract over 10,000 visitors throughout the weekend.

Taking place over seven stages amongst the historic exhibit buildings and outdoor museum the stages and a special marquee were dotted around the folk park.

Headlining was the Nashville, Tennessee band Lonesome River Band who celebrated their 30th award at the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) for their song Angeline The Baker this year.CedarHill CrowdAlso taking to the stage as a main act of the weekend were Cedar Hill (Arkansas), duo Lynda Dawson and Pattie Hopkins (North Carolina) and gospel bluegrass band The Churchmen (Virginia).Cedar HillCedar Hill

Joining the headliners were Rawhide, one of the longest established European bluegrass bands, Edinburgh-based Southern Tenant Folk Union, English trio Jaywalkers and local bands including Woodbine, Rackhouse Pilfer, Broken String Band, Northern Exposure, Tupelo, Well Enough Alone, The Down and Out Bluegrass Band, Wookalily and Cup O’Joe.

To compliment the historic backdrop were members of the Irish & American Historic Society, based in Omagh, who dressed as members of the 22nd North Carolina Infantry.

James Herron, who appeared as U.S. Army officer and Confederate States Army general Jeb Stuart said: “This Bluegrass Festival is a fantastic event for Omagh, it helps to maintain the links between Ireland north and south and America. We’ve had a great weekend.”

Fans young and old made their way from stage to stage throughout the weekend to hear a wealth of Americana, bluegrass, folk, newgrass and roots music.
MalcolmJoanneMcCurry kidsCalum(13)Jordan(8)Family Malcolm & Joanne McCurry with sons Calum (13) and Jordan (8)

Sisters Patricia and Claire Hayes from The Rock, Cookstown celebrated Patricia’s 26th birthday at the festival. Patricia and Claire HayesPatricia said: “We have had an absolutely brilliant weekend, the music has been fab, what a great way to spend your birthday.”

Richard Hurst, organiser of the Festival, said; “We have an exceptional line-up for this year’s event and visitors not only enjoyed these outstanding bands but also soaking up the unique bluegrass atmosphere in the Folk Park.”
Well Enough AloneWell Enough Alone

Today the Spirit of Bluegrass Gospel Concert sees Cedar Hill and The Churchmen take to the marquee stage at 6pm. Meanwhile a whole host of acts who have played throughout the weekend will play one of the seven other stages from 12.30pm to 6.15pm.
Tickets are still available at the folk park on arrival.

For more information on the Omagh Bluegrass Festival, supported by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, log onto Tickets can be booked online or via the ticket hotline on 028 8224 3292

By Tina Calder
Photos by Ciaran McElhinney