The Marana Bluegrass Festival has always been a family friendly event, but this year’s fifth edition of the multi-day concert at Ora Mae Harn Park is really trying to introduce children to the art form. 

“We are encouraging families to come,” said Joe Wilke of the Desert Bluegrass Association. 

There are several changes to the festival to appeal just to children, including a hands-on instrument area dubbed the “petting zoo.” In addition to getting to listen to bluegrass musicians, children will be able to pick up, handle and play instruments. 

Phoenix’s Jam Pak will be on hand. The band is actually a program that helps introduce children, many from low income backgrounds, to bluegrass, gospel and other traditional old time music.

The first night of the concert will be different this year than in years past. Friday night, April 28, will feature all local talent, specifically local singer/songwriters. With a goal of sharing new talent with as many people as possible, Friday night is free, which the organizers feel is their way of “giving back to the community of Marana, and also to introduce artists you might not normally see, but who play out and about Tucson.”

Opening the weekend will be Marilyn Ryan and Bob Nible, then banjo player Rudy Cortese. Like Cortese, he plays banjo, as well as being a talented singer. Closing out that first night is veteran Tucson musician Peter McLaughlin. 

The first band goes on at 4 p.m. and the show should run until about 8 p.m. The music starts at 9 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. After Jam Pak sings the national anthem, traditional bluegrass and gospel band Scattered grass opens the show.  The final band before the headliner is Run Boy Run. Rebecca Frazier is the headliner, performing with the Hit and Run Band. 

Day two will see most of the same acts take the stage with just a few differences.Frazier will play her set at 11 a.m., followed by Cisco and the Racecars, Crucial Countr and Way Out West. 2 Lazy 2 Ranch, a bluegrass gospel band, is the other Sunday-only band. Run Boy Run and Sonoran Dogs close out the show. 

In addition to the bands there will be food trucks, vendors and more. Camping is available and there will be post-concert campfire jams. There will also be contests, auctions and raffles. 

Tickets are $20 per day or $30 for the weekend. Tent camping is free, while RV’s are just $10 per night. 

Although a limited number or tables and chairs will be on hand, event organizers recommend brining your own chair or blanket. 

For more information, go to http://www.maranafestival.com/.

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