Gray-haired folks welcomed by Red Willow

Gray-haired folks welcomed by Red Willow By Bob Karolevitz It's a giant switch from the Glenn Miller Festival in Clarinda, IA, to the 20th annual Folk Music Festival at Newton Hills State Park � but Phyllis and I made it.

Surprisingly, we enjoyed ourselves!

For two septuagenarians who prefer 18-piece bands with trumpets, trombones and saxophones, the change to guitars � lots of guitars! � took a bit of adjusting.

Actually we only attended one afternoon session of the three-day outdoor concert at the Lincoln County site south of Canton. The crowd was about 90 percent forty-something, and I kept my hat on to hide my gray hair, although I noticed some prematurely whitening and some balding pates.

The generational gap was obvious. With the younger folks, we gave a standing ovation to the Red Willow Band, a five-man group we had heard some 20 years ago at an arts festival in Brookings.

Only this time the musicians and those in the audience were two decades older. There was something sentimental about the concert as the band members were reassembled from their separate ways, possibly to give one last performance with all of them together.

The band featured the superbly talented Kenny Putnam with his inimitable fiddle and the versatile Chris Gage on guitar and keyboard. But the others � drummer Barry Carpenter, bassman Marley Forman and singer Hank Harris, also on guitar � were equally impressive.

This was NOT a rock concert. We listened mostly to country swing (my interpretation) and a little blue grass. The reception, to say the least, was enthusiastic.

However, Phyllis and I were a bit skeptical when daughter Jan invited us to the affair. We had read about and seen on television the debacle at the Woodstock revival and we half expected to see some rowdiness � but, to our delight, the situation was not at all the same.

Oh, we saw a few pony tails in the crowd as some individuals tried to recapture their youth, but the listeners were generally middle-aged adults on lawn chairs and blankets (with little kids in tow) reviving memories of an earlier era.

We had to admit it was not unlike our elderly set, getting teary-eyed when we listened to the Glenn Miller theme and the sentimental ballads of the '40s.

The music was different, of course, but we found ourselves caught up in the spirit of the occasion. As I said, we even stood willingly to honor the Red Willow Band in the multiple encored finale.

We were also impressed by the way the crowd policed up its litter of water bottles, beer cans and food service trash. There was very little mess, we thought, for the State Game, Fish and Parks crew to clean up afterwards. It was as if no one wanted to despoil the grounds and leave an unsightly aftermath to the "sentimental journey."

Phyllis and I drove away from Newton Hills with warm feelings about another generation and its music. We still draw the line on punk rock, rap and the weirdos who perform those aberrations of sound, but you can put us down as aged fans of the Red Willow Band, guitars and all.

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