BROOKSVILLE— It's all about keeping it classic — classic country, classic cars and classic bluegrass.
It's a design that makes the Florida Bluegrass Classic stand out among other festivals on the bluegrass circuit and a reason why the 30-year-running festival moved to Hernando County.
"We moved (to Brooksville) after we outgrew our venue in Waldo," said event promoter Ernie Evans of Evans Media Source. "It was great. It was double our expectations."
And when the popular bluegrass festival opens Feb. 22 at Florida Classic Park, festival-goers will be in for a treat as two legendary country music artists hit the stage — Eddie Raven and Marty Raybon.
Raybon, a Grammy Award-winning singer, will give two performances Feb. 24. Although his wildly popular hit single Butterfly Kisses was recorded during a his brief stint as half of the Raybon Brothers duo, Raybon is known primarily as the lead singer of Shenandoah. Since the 1980s, the band has produced a number of hits, such as The Church on Cumberland Road, Two Dozen Roses and She Doesn't Cry Anymore.
Eddie Raven and the Country Grass Show will entertain on Feb. 25. With a Cajun influence, Raven is known for No. 1 hits such as I Got Mexico, Joe Knows How to Live and Shine, Shine, Shine. Raven has charted more than 35 singles since 1962, including 17 consecutive Top 10 hits between 1984 and 1990.
"We are bringing in bigger names," Evans said, "and we are already ahead of last year's ticket sales."
While the festival is officially scheduled from Feb. 22 to 26, campers may arrive as early as Feb. 20 and will be able to enjoy bingo, a potluck dinner and an open mic radio show on Feb. 21. A full lineup of 12 acts will entertain throughout the weekend, including groups such as the Gary Waldrep Band, Lorrain Jordan & Carolina Road and Remington Ryde — a band recently nominated for the Entertainer of the Year Award at the 2017 Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America awards in Nashville.
There also will be a classic car show, guitar and banjo workshops, arts and crafts, food vendors and a gospel sing on the morning of Feb. 26.
Evans said that when the event moved to Hernando County last year, the festival not only brought its longtime bluegrass fans, but also drew new crowds from throughout Central Florida. The facility east of Brooksville allows for organizers to bring bigger artists such as Raybon and Raven, and Evans hinted at even bigger names for the 2018 festival.
"Our format is something that makes a big difference," he said. "It is not just the bluegrass, but also the classic country and the classic cars. All three contribute to the attendance."