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Pick Mason Neck for Bluegrass, Family Fun

Lion’s Club’s Pick’n on the Neck Bluegrass Festival takes bluegrass music back to its nature-driven roots.

Not a fan of Britney Spears or Nick Lachey? Tired of city folks’ high-strung lifestyle? Then slow down and take a break while listening to great music and eating tasty food at the Pick’n on the Neck Bluegrass Festival. Presented by the Mason Neck Lions Club, the festival takes place at Mason Neck State Park,

Four Virginian bluegrass bands will play beneath the trees for eight hours at the all-day festival, while the Lions Club prepares hamburgers and hot dogs and provides refreshments.

Steve Mahan, the Lions Club committee chairman for the project, said the festival started last summer as a Lions Club fund raiser and was so successful, the club agreed to make it a biannual tradition with festivals in June and August. Since the first concert in June 2005, the festival has grown in popularity, with more than 160 people attending the festival at the beginning of this summer.

“There are a lot of bluegrass fans here in Northern Virginia, and we’re on the verge of tapping into that market,” Mahan said.

Jess Lowry, park manager of Mason Neck Park, said the festival allows new visitors, who may not be familiar with the park, to get a feel for the park and the facilities offered, such as canoeing or hiking. For those who are regulars at the park, the festival provides the opportunity to participate in a new activity.

Either way, he said, the festival is simply a wonderful experience.

“I just love it when they come out,” Lowry said. “It’s just so enjoyable to sit under the trees and listen to the music.”

However, Monte Monteith, guitar player for the Sky Stone Bluegrass Band, said the audience should be warned that they will not be able to simply sit back and relax.

“It’s not just straight, dead music that we play,” he said. “We start out with jokes that run throughout the whole show. And there’s a lot of fast fiddle songs — this is not for the faint of heart, light bluegrass fans.”

THE SKY STONE Bluegrass Band has played all over Virginia, won several awards and was named best vocal band at this year’s Fairfax City parade. Although they have played at venues all over the area, Monteith said his band always enjoys playing in the park.

“It’s one of the prettiest and nicest places that we have played,” he said. “It’s right on the river. The thing that’s most noticeable for us is that it is just such a nice venue, we love to play in it.”

Lowry said a bluegrass festival in the park brings back an “old-timey” feel of what families did for entertainment in the 1800s.

“It’s something that’s been done for years and years and just isn’t done that often now,” he said. “That’s what makes it so enjoyable.”

Mahan agreed and said the park was chosen because it is a favorite among Lions Club members and it is simply a beautiful place to spend time.

“This festival is really just conducive to bluegrass music because there’s a wooden area on one side and a nice river on the other,” Mahan said. “It’s really what bluegrass music is all about.”

In addition to its scenic atmosphere, Mason Neck Park was chosen because it is an intricate part of the community that the Lions Club supports. The money earned through the festival directly benefits the community as the Lions Club is an organization focused on service, he said. As a community-based group, the Lions Club sponsors several programs to that benefit organizations such as the Virginia eye bank, the Lorton Community Action Center and the Lions Youth Camp.

“All proceeds benefit the Lions Club,” Mahan said. “And since we help the community, if you buy a ticket, you’re helping the community.”