Mike and Tari Conroy, organizers of the Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival, absolutely love the current venue for the event, the Heiland family ranch south of Hamilton. The festival was moved to the new location last year and it has worked out really well.
“Everybody loves this new location,” says Mike. “We have more shade and more trees. There’s also a little irrigation ditch that runs in front of the stage that the kids and dogs all play in. It’s great.”
The 13th annual Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival will be held July 22-23-24. According to Mike Conroy, there are “12 great bands,” including three new ones. The Johnny Campbell Band will be coming all the way from Nashville, Tennessee. “93 North” from Salmon, Idaho is in the line-up. And a new duo, Phyllis Erck from Anaconda and Helen Lude from California, have teamed up for some great sounds.
The Conroys started the Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival to preserve and carry on the bluegrass music tradition in the Bitterroot.
“Tari and I had this idea years ago to structure this like an old-time bluegrass festival of the 1930s and ‘40s,” says Mike. “The stage is like the porch of an old cabin, with just one microphone that all the bands play on.” The thing about bluegrass, says Mike Conroy, is that “you don’t play bluegrass unless you really mean it.”
The Conroys also have an old Model A and two Model T’s that they use to give people rides on and to move stuff around. “We’ll be using them to clean up the area, pine cones, cowpies, etc,” said Mike.
There will be three popular local food vendors on site: Country Kitchen, Moose Creek Barbecue and El Cazador.
The Heiland Ranch is one of the valley’s larger ranches, located 10 miles south of Hamilton at 424 Forest Hill Road. To get there, turn off of Highway 93 at mile marker 37 and go all the way to the end of the road. The festival will be on the left.
Weekend passes are $30 for adults, $15 for children. Day passes for Friday or Saturday are $20 for adults, $10 for kids. Day passes for Sunday only are $15 for adults, $7 for children. Children 6 and under get in free. Bluegrass gospel music will be featured on Sunday morning. Camping is also offered for $25. People are encouraged to bring lawn chairs; dogs are okay as long as they are leashed.
“A lot of people say it’s the best festival they’ve ever been to because of the old-time feeling,” said Mike. “And it’s family-friendly. Very family-friendly.”
For more information go to: www.hardtimesbluegrass.com or call 406-821-3777.