Roots and Bluegrass Festival to highlight arts, culture in River Falls

Posted March 9, 2016

The sixth annual River Falls Roots and Bluegrass Festival, which will feature a number of bands from Wisconsin and Minnesota, is fast approaching.

The festival is scheduled from Friday to Sunday, April 8-10, at various venues along Main Street. Among events will be a singing and songwriting contest from 2:30-4:30 p.m. on April 9, musical demonstrations throughout the weekend, a beer and wine tasting featuring local brews, and an antiques appraisal from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on April 10.

This will also be the first year to feature a band competition open to acoustic groups of at least three members. Up to six bands will be able to compete. The winner will get a cash prize and a professional recording session at Brickhouse Music in River Falls.

The music festival is organized by the River Falls Chamber of Commerce. Maranda Mahr, the chamber’s event and program coordinator, said the festival highlights the art scene in the community.

“I think River Falls is unique in that we really love to celebrate the arts and culture here and we really don’t have our own music festival, so we wanted to bring that to River Falls,” she said. “The folk (music) is a very popular theme and interest to the people of River Falls, so we wanted to bring that out.”

Among the bands performing at the festival will be Milwaukee-based Dead Horses, who play a range of songs that reach from gospel to folk.

Band singer Sarah Vos has had fond memories in the three years the band has attended the festival.

“The festival has been special to me because I have some memories that go back to when I was first figuring things out, about how I wanted to do this,” she said about her music career. “River Falls is a really cool town, and when the festival is going on the whole town really embraces it. It makes it fun to come into town.”

The festival also has proven to have a positive economic influence on River Falls.

According to surveys taken at the events, the 2015 festival saw 3,500 people in attendance and brought in a total of $178,384.

For the restaurants and bars that host the bands, the festival has been of great importance. Jeff Wesley is a festival committee member and the co-owner of Junior’s Bar and Restaurant, which has been the main venue since the festival was created.

“We definitely see a significant increase in sales during the festival,” he said. “I can only assume the other bars and restaurants see a benefit also, as the same venues have been involved year after year.”

One new thing he is happy about is the beer sponsors the festival has acquired for this year. Among them is the Fulton Brewing Company from Minneapolis, which Wesley said is one of the larger breweries in Minnesota.

This will also mark the second year that attendance for the festival will be free, with only the beer and wine tasting having an admission cost. The beer and wine tasting is scheduled from 5-8 p.m. Friday, April 8, at Junior’s Bar & Restaurant, 414 S. Main St. Admission is $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

Tickets are available for purchase at Junior’s and the River Falls Chamber of Commerce, 215 W. Maple St. For further information about the festival, visit its website,