Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival

The water is blue. The grass is too.

August 10-12, 2018

Lake photo by Lola Sherstobitoff


Proud Sponsors of the Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival:

Inland Northwest Bluegrass Association
Northern Quest Casino
HKS Engineers
WA Arts
Spokane Public Radio

About the Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival

Nestled in the pines on the shores of Medical Lake, Washington, the Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival is quite possibly the best summertime bluegrass experience in the Northwest.  With it's pristine location, warm Eastern Washington summer weather, stellar lineup of world-class and regional bands, and bargain-basement price, it's no wonder folks all over the Northwest Bluegrass scene are buzzing about us.

Since its inception in 2002, Blue Waters has brought some of the biggest names in bluegrass music to the Inland Northwest, including The Seldom Scene, Dan Tyminski, the Steep Canyon Rangers, Della Mae, Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum, Kathy Kallick, Chatham County Line, Front Country, Jody Stecher & Kate Brislin, Darrell Scott, Mountain Heart, Crooked Still, the Infamous Stringdusters, Kenny & Amanda Smith, John Reischman & the Jaybirds, the Greencards, Martha Scanlan, Dirk Powell, the Josh Williams Band, and many, many others.

2017 Lineup

Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley

Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley are the new acoustic powerhouse duo in the world of bluegrass and roots music.
Rob Ickes is a longtime, well-established instrumental giant, having won more IBMA awards than any other bluegrass instrumentalist in the International Bluegrass Music Association's history. He has also collaborated with a wide range of musicians, including Merle Haggard, Earl Scruggs, Tony Rice, Charlie Haden, David Grisman, Alison Krauss, Willie Nelson, David Lee Roth, Dolly Parton, Patty Loveless, Peter Rowan, and Mary Chapin Carpenter, as well as his long tenure with bluegrass legends Blue Highway.
Trey Hensley is newly arrived in Music City, bursting with talent both as a vocalist and guitarist. He first picked up a guitar at the age of 10, he quickly took the bluegrass world by storm —- even performing on the Grand Ole Opry when he was 11. Trey has had the opportunity to perform with the likes of Marty Stuart, Earl Scruggs, Johnny and June Carter Cash, Charlie Daniels, Steve Wariner, The Oak Ridge Boys, Ricky Skaggs, Blue Highway, J.D. Crowe and many others.

Friday - 9:00pm, Saturday - 8:15pm

Lonely Heartstring Band

The The Lonely Hearstring Band are one of the most talked-about young bands to hit the bluegrass scene in years. Nourished by deep roots in the expansive canon of traditional American music, this band embodies the modern American condition—an understanding and reverence for the past that informs a push into the future. This multi-talented group of musicians is a classic Bluegrass quintet—always far greater than the sum of its parts. With their 2015 IBMA Momentum Award and the imminent release of their debut full-length album on the legendary Rounder Records label, this band is on the rise with no sign of slowing down.

Saturday - 9:15pm, Sunday - 4:00pm

The Harmonic Tone Revealers

John Reischman, Scott Nygaard & Sharon Gilchrist are an acoustic power trio that blends traditional bluegrass and folk styles with their own visions of contemporary string band music, reshaping old melodies and composing new music based on traditional forms with an improvisatory flair and melodic richness.

John Reischman is one of the premier mandolinists of his generation, the kind of master craftsman whose music is virtuosic without ever being flashy and who is renowned for his impeccable taste and tone as an artist.
Scott Nygaard is the former editor of Acoustic Guitar magazine and one of the most inventive and original guitarists in the bluegrass/acoustic music scene.
Sharon Gilchrist has long made her home in the American acoustic music scene. She is a founding member of the original Dixie Chicks, and has also played with Uncle Earl, Tony Rice & Peter Rowan's Quartet, and Darol Anger's Republic of Strings.

Saturday - 3:30pm, Sunday - 2:00pm


Celebrating their twentieth year as a band this year, Jackstraw are regarded as the cream of the crop of Northwest bluegrass bands. They know their bluegrass history and don’t hesitate to pay homage to their heroes, like the Stanley Brothers, but this ain’t your standard bluegrass band. These boys have a cutting edge take on bluegrass picking that they’ve developed over years of touring the United States and their original songs can sound as much country as oldtime. This is bluegrass that belongs in a dusty honky-tonk, country twang as rooted in Bill Monroe as George Jones, an old-timey sound for a new age.

Sunday - 3:00pm

Kaia Kater

As a new generation takes the reins, American roots music is needed more than ever to remind us of the troubled pathways of our own history. Born of African-Caribbean descent in Québec, Kaia Kater grew up between two worlds: one her family’s deep ties to Canadian folk music in her Toronto home; the other the years she spent learning and studying Appalachian music in West Virginia. Her acclaimed debut album Sorrow Bound (May 2015) touched on this divide, but her new album, Nine Pin (May 2016), delves even further, and casts an unflinching eye at the realities faced by people of colour in North America every day. Her songs on the new album are fueled by her rich low tenor vocals, jazz-influenced instrumentation, and beautifully understated banjo, and they’ve got as much in common with Kendrick Lamar right now as they do with Pete Seeger.

Friday - 7:00pm, Saturday - 2:30pm

Fireball Mail

Winners of the 2016 Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Contest and based out of the Deep South, Fireball Mail offer a soul stirring mixture of original and traditional tunes artistically presented with virtuosity par excellence. The band, formed in March 2014, is comprised of high caliber musicians who collectively have an impressive resume of touring, and recording experience including appearances with such notable artists as Buddy Greene, Claire Lynch, Curtis Burch, and Ricky Skaggs. Some Inland Northwest bluegrassers may remember Brad Bulla as former front man for the family band The Bullas in our region back in the 1990s.

Friday - 8:00pm, Saturday - 4:30pm

Stanley Brothers Tribute

A few years ago at the Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival, we started a tradition of paying tribute to a major bluegrass artist. The idea was to combine songs and narration with a special house band, and tell the story of how the roots of bluegrass have informed and influenced the music as it has grown and changed. Bluegrass holds its founding fathers and mothers in high regard, and even though innovation has been a part of the music since the beginning, so has tradition and respect for the founding fathers and mothers of the genre. With the passing of Ralph Stanley in 2016 we knew that we were going to feature the Stanley Brothers for our 2017 tribute. The house band for the show will be Jackstraw, with a few special guests, and narration provided by Blue Waters Music Director Kevin Brown.

Saturday - 7:00pm

Jenny Anne & Caleb Mannan and Bust it Like a Mule

Jenny Anne Mannan grew up playing in The Bullas, a family bluegrass band that toured the country and opened for several bluegrass legends. In her early teens she recorded an album on Rounder Records with her brother, fiddler Luke Bulla. Her songs have been recorded by John Cowan ("Little Match Girl", Comfort & Joy) and Sara Watkins ("Lock & Key", Sun Midnight Sun). Last year she began hosting a highly successful monthly variety show called "Northwest of Nashville" at the Bartlett in Spokane.

Caleb Mannan's new American folktale, Bust It Like A Mule, was featured on Spokane Public Radio's 'The Bookshelf in August of 2016. The acclaimed dramatic live performance, featuring original music by Jenny Anne Mannan, Kevin Morgan and Jacob Mannan, has been called a 'Southern Fried Prairie Home Companion'. It was first performed at Northwest of Nashville, and combines the musical talents of Jenny Anne and her friends with readings by Caleb and songs based on stories from Bust it Like a Mule. You won't want to miss this one and only Bust it Like a Mule show!

Sunday - 1:00pm

The River City Ramblers

The River City Ramblers come from the Old-Time corner of Bluegrass Country, where the roads are all crooked and unpaved, the fiddle is in the middle, and the main job of a band is to provide music for dancing. For the past 15 years RCR have been making it hard for feet to keep still at dances and festivals in the northwest.
The band features four long-time Old-Time musicians from the Inland Northwest: Judy Lundgren on fiddle, Bill Siems on mandolin, Dawn Holladay on guitar and Michael Gifford (aka “Gut-Bucket Giff”) on washtub bass.

Saturday - 1:30pm

The Panhandle Polecats

After spending their dull childhood in a hollow log eating beetles and crickets this young litter quickly rose to stardom in the Inland Northwest bluegrass bluegrass scene. The Panhandle Polecats have toured throughout the region performing everywhere from cow pastures, barns, garages, and parking lots, to television studios, bluegrass festivals, colleges, county fairs, and auditoriums. This quintet is made up of 5 siblings – 2 brothers and 3 sisters – who have established a reputation for good music, first rate picking, and a high energy, entertaining show. They are not a tribute or cover band, although their sound is deeply rooted in the classic sounds of Flatt & Scruggs, Bill Monroe, and the Dillards, but they play their music with the same kind of energy and enthusiasm as those legendary artists did back when bluegrass was a new musical form. In every note they play, it is obvious that these five siblings love to play music even more than they love to fight with each other.

Friday - 6:00pm

Brett & Janet Dodd

Brett and Janet are a local Spokane singer-songwriter duo singing tight woven harmonies drawing from Americana, Folk and Bluegrass. They first met a couple of decades ago over a casual conversation about mandolins and music, and have been together musically and otherwise ever since! Longtime fixtures on the local bluegrass scene, they recently stepped up their commitment to our rich local scene by taking on the roles of President and Secretary of the Inland Northwest Bluegrass Music Association. Performing on mandolin, guitar, fiddle, accordion and bass, Brett and Janet bring heartfelt harmony and energy to original and contemporary roots music.

Sunday - 12:00pm


Main Stage
Friday, Aug 11, 2017
4:00pm Open Mic!
Sign up at the front gate on Friday after noon.
6:00pm The Panhandle Polecats
7:00pm Kaia Kater
8:00pm Fireball Mail
9:00pm Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley
Saturday, Aug 12, 2017
1:00pm Youth Camp performance
1:30pm The River City Ramblers
2:30pm Kaia Kater
3:30pm John Reischman, Scott Nygaard & Sharon Gilchrist
4:30pm Fireball Mail
5:30pm Dinner break
7:00pm Stanley Brothers Tribute
8:15pm Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley
9:15pm Lonely Heartstring Band
Workshop Stage


The workshop stage is located north of the main festival grounds. Just follow the walkway past the bathrooms and you will find it near the 2nd ballfield.

Wernick Method Jam Class

If you are interested in something more intensive than the workshops listed here, you might want to consider the Wernick Jam Class which is hosted at Blue Waters by Kelly Bogan. This class is open to players on all bluegrass instruments at any level, and will teach the basics of jamming and playing with others. More information about the Wernick Jam Class can be found by clicking here.

Saturday, Aug 12, 2017
12:00pm Bass workshop  with Charles Clements (Lonely Heartstring Band)
1:00pm Mandolin workshop  with John Reischman, Sharon Gilchrist & Matt Witler (Lonely Heartstring Band)
2:00pm Banjo workshop  with Gabe Hirshfeld (Lonely Heartstring Band)
3:00pm Fiddle workshop  with Patrick M'Gonigle (Lonely Heartstring Band)
4:00pm Dobro workshop  with Rob Ickes, the most IBMA-award-winning instrumentalist in bluegrass history!!
Sunday, Aug 13, 2017
10:00am Washtub Bass workshop  with Michael Gifford (River City Ramblers)
11:00am Guitar workshop  with Scott Nygaard and George Clements (Lonely Heartstring Band)

Blue Waters Youth Camp

Under the able leadership of legendary fiddle instructor Jaydean Ludiker, "Blue Camp" is a two day music workshop offered by the Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival to youth ages 20 and under, regardless of musical ability. Students on any of the standard bluegrass instruments -- guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle and bass -- are welcome. Over the course of the two days the students will be instructed on some basic tunes and bluegrass jamming conventions and etiquette. Blue Camp culminates with an onstage showcase opportunity. Participants work with top notch, inspiring bluegrass musicians who give them something new and exciting to take away from their experience.

To learn more, click the link below to download the Blue Camp registration and information form:

Blue Camp Form.

Volunteer at Blue Waters

Volunteers are an essential part of the Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival. We are so fortunate to have a large group of generous, enthusiastic, friendly, and hard working volunteers. The volunteers are the first to greet visitors when they arrive, and set the tone for a fun filled weekend.

If you are interested in being a part of our volunteer team, click the link below to download our volunteer form:

Volunteer Form.


In addition to all the fine music during the weekend, folks can get some great eats and browse through our crafts vendor area. We limit the number of unique food vendors so each unit has a chance to do well for the weekend; craft vendors have prime space and all are welcome! All the vendors are outside the festival fence line, so anyone using the park has access which contributes to your success! Please download the form below or contact us for more information.

Vendor Form

Camping at Blue Waters

Weekend camping passes are only $50, and are available online or at the festival gate. Please note that a weekend festival pass is required of all campers.

Blue Waters offers two camping areas:

  • Upper camping - RVs only. Dry camping -- there are no RV hookups or services available.
  • Lower camping - Tents only. Absolutely no campers, popups, etc. will be allowed in the lower parking lot or camping area. This is a city mandate which is out of our control.

Additional camping (with hookups) is available just a short walk from the festival grounds at West Medical Lake Resort, (509) 299-3921. Camping is also available a short drive away at Ruby's on Silver Lake (509) 299-RUBY, and at Sun Cove Resort on Clear Lake (509) 216-6776.

Other Lodging Options

For those out-of-town guests who are not interested in camping, there are several quality hotels within a short drive of the festival. We encourage you to check out the establishments below. Several of these hotels have become friends and sponsors of our festival and we can wholeheartedly recommend their establishments.

Sponsor hotels:

Holiday Inn Express

Northern Quest Casino Hotel

Other nearby hotels:

Day's Inn Airway Heights

Peppertree Inn

Ramada Spokane Airport

Hilton Garden Inn

Super 8 Airport West


  • Pets are not allowed in the park where the music is held. Pets may be on a leash in the upper parking lot only, and on the walkway around the lake.
  • Glass bottles are not allowed in the park.
  • No drugs

You are welcome to bring your own picnic food, although we also have plenty of food vendors. There are picnic tables available near the back of the viewing area. Bring your own blankets and/or chairs for festival seating, but please do not bring high-back chairs or umbrellas or anything that might restrict the viewing of folks behind you.

Children under 12 are free with their parents.

Directions to Blue Waters

Medical Lake, WA is located just west of Spokane, WA.  Waterfront Park is on State Highway 902 just south of Medical Lake, WA, about 15 minutes west of Spokane, and about 3 1/2 hours east of Seattle. The park is enclosed by a canopy of tall ponderosa pines, providing cool shade for those warm and sunny Eastern Washington days. 

Note to Travelers: The Spokane-Medical Lake area is on the dry side of the Cascades. A national magazine rated Spokane's summer climate as second best in the nation. Days are normally dry with temperatures in the 80's or low 90's. Nights are cool and you might need a light sweater for late jamming.

Westbound Travelers (from Spokane)

  • On 1-90 Take Exit #272 nine miles west of Spokane.
  • Turn right onto W. Medical Lake Rd. / Hwy 902 and continue for 5.6 miles into the town of Medical Lake.
  • Turn left at Lefevre (right by Denny's Harvest Foods) and follow for 1.5 miles to Waterfront Park.
  • The park and festival entrance will be on your right.

Eastbound Travelers (from Seattle)

  • On I-90 take exit #264 (Salnave Rd.) and follow Salnave / Hwy 902 north for 5.1 miles.
  • Turn left into Waterfront Park one mile south of Medical Lake.

Northbound/Southbound Travelers

Northbound and southbound travelers should get onto I-90 and head East or West  as the case may be and take the appropriate exit indicated above.


Additional offsite parking is available at West Medical Lake, which is just west of Waterfront Park.  Watch for additional parking signs as you near the park from either direction.

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