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Mixon Fruit Farms sponsoring bluegrass in the grove in Manatee County

MANATEE -- To many, bluegrass music has always meant banjo picking, frantic mandolin and the high-lonesome wail of a fiddle.

But local promoter and bluegrass artist Mark Horn wanted to bring to Manatee County audiences a more progressive sound of the American roots music.

Horn booked two performances with bluegrass artists at Mixon Fruit Farms Concert in the Grove.

The first concert last week featured Dale Ann Bradley, Phil Leadbetter and The Walker Brothers. And on Friday, The Roys will perform at the Mixon concert pavilion, 2525 27th St. E.

"I think we're just starting to provide something folks are ready to hear," Horn said.

He said the musical genre may have a back-woods reputation, but many people have not been exposed to "today's" new bluegrass sound.

"People have the image of country men with long sideburns picking on some instruments," Horn said, "But it can be much more."

Just as country music crossed over to a more-popular sound, bluegrass has been expanding its sound to appeal

to a broader audience.

For example, Lee and Elaine Roy, a brother-and-sister family-harmony act born in Massachusetts and raised in New Brunswick, Canada, blend bluegrass, country, folk and gospel styles into a sound that has kept them atop various charts since their debut in 2009.

"A lot of people from Up North are down here this time of the year," Horn said, "and they may be more familiar with bluegrass."

Sheri Goby, director of weddings and events at Mixon's, said the farm had bluegrass at its regular concerts for the first time last year.

The Concerts in the Grove have been held for six years and usually feature country or big bands. "Bluegrass did very well," Goby said. "We had 200-300 people attend."

The open-air venue will be audience friendly even if the weather is chilly because it has plastic sidewalls that can be rolled down, as well as heaters, Goby said.

The concert admission price is are $15 and there will be food and beverages available for purchase.

For more information, call 941-748-5829.

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