MANATEE -- What started three years ago as a small, rustic weekend bluegrass festival is growing into a more eclectic event for music and food lovers.
Saturday's Braden River Music Festival and Gumbo Cook-Off is not just for bluegrass fans anymore.
"We have a rather diverse collection of groups, from bluegrass to modern country," said Mark Horn, one of the organizers of the event at the Linger Lodge Restaurant and Campground, 7205 85th St. Ct. E. "We try to provide something for everyone."
Performers will include HWY 41 SOUTH, Generations, Mitch Lind and The
Lagerheads, Kim Betts and Gamble Creek, Roy Schneider and The Schmitz Brothers.
Horn said performers such as Lind and Schneider take bluegrass to a new level, known as Americana, a roux of American styles of folk, blues, bluegrass and country. Horn described it as "outside the box, a little left of bluegrass."
Horn said fans begin showing up a day early.
"Folks typically arrive Friday night. Then it's eat, drink and be merry, and the festival starts Saturday," he said. "It's a laid-back event."
The $15 admission includes all performances, which start at 11 a.m., as well as gumbo-tasting privileges and a vote for the People's Choice award.
Dave LaRusso, Linger Lodge general manager, said the gumbo competition was brought back by popular demand. Competitors vie for the Chef's Choice award given by a guest chef from Cisco Foods, LaRusso said.
The four competitors so far include:
Tony Gowgiel, a traditional roux-based seafood gumbo over rice;
Lynda Wagner, a "real" Louisiana Cajun gumbo;
Dan Morford, a chicken andouille gumbo; and
Linger Lodge's award-winning gumbo.
LaRusso said he knows who will win.
"We feel our gumbo is the best in the state."
A good crowd is expected.
"The weather looks really good for Saturday so we are hoping for around 1,000 folks to visit," Horn said, "It keeps gaining ground every year."
While campground slots at Linger Lodge have sold out, last-minute vacancies do open up, Horn said. No pets, glass containers high-back chairs or coolers allowed in the concert area.
For information, call 941-755-2757.
Jim DeLa, East Manatee/Weekend editor, can be reached at 941-745-7011. Follow him on Twitter @JimDeLaBH.