BobbyAweWill the circle be unbroken? Yeah, I don’t think it ever was broken. Rather I came all the way around at Bob Everhart’s 40th country music festival. I went to LeMars. Where, Mars? No, Le Mars! That is a small town in Iowa. After a long time I went Country again (once a cowgirl, always a cowgirl), listening to famous tunes four days straight.

Bob calls his brand of event a “mouthful.” To be precise, we are talking about the “National Old Time, Country, Bluegrass, and Folk Music Festival and Pioneer Exposition of Arts, Crafts, Flea Market, And Agricultural Lifestyle & Rural Living Convention.” I am calling it Bob and Sheila’s (his wife) country music festival.

Chari&StanNow I don’t know if time was standing still, I skipped a few decades, or I was fast-forwarding to the Plymouth County Fairgrounds from my yesteryear Texas college days—I still recognized some faces of the old-time music hardliners. I’ll be darn, the music festival, as I had known it from Avoca (Iowa), although smaller, was still going strong.

Granted, a number of musicians had passed on. Yet, just like I vividly remembered, there was this array of RV campers and a village of show barns filled with musical entertainment. For seven days during Labor Day week, on ten stages, all day long, traditional country music would play itself out. You could get an endless earful of acoustic folk music, “exotic” instruments such as dulcimer, autoharp, or singing saw included. Some performers came from as far as New Zealand. READ ON BELOW JACOB AUSTIN BAND VIDEO

Bob Everhart, the organizer of this medley, is a great performer, recording artist, promoter, and encyclopedia of country music. He and his wife Sheila have earned a spot at the Smithsonian’s Traveling Museum. Bob chose his country music mission early on in life. He didn’t try too hard to become a star. Why? He put a value instead of a price tag on his favorite music. Bob didn’t sell out to the music industry, because those traditional tunes feel best when everyone sings and plays them together. So the Great Plains troubadour started many a friendly competition. Bob has always kept good-natured about the (tough) music business. His favorite key is “h” for humor. He likes to joke when things go wrong. And the show always goes on somehow.

Bob&SheilaNot only has Bob put on his festival (and many other gigs) for 40 years, he also founded the National Traditional Country Music Association and established a prairie “roots music” Pioneer Music Museum in Anita, Iowa, with America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame and many music memorabilia in it. Call it “Planet Country Music.” Sheila plays music (bass) with Bob and helps him with the organizing and hosting the awards at the big, annual NTCMA festival. For the rest of the year, all three (add daughter Bobbie Leah to the mix) have planned a number of events at their Oak Tree Opry in their hometown Anita, Iowa.

BobEverhart&meHow do I know Bob Everhart? Let’s go back to prehistoric 1979. My friend Leni (alias Maria Petersen) from Omaha took me along to his country music festival. She and I come from the same small village in Germany (Ascholding). Now as then, Leni was scheduled for a number of appearances with her zither (so far the one and only at this festival over the last 30 years). This time, I followed her around, taking pictures for her portfolio.

Oh, what a memory lane I got on! I had organized, as a teenager, some country music appearances for Bob and his travel companions around my German hometown. That was such a thrill and highly unusual at the time. Here’s another thing: On stage I had to translate the introductions of songs for Bob. He kept telling the listeners about the famous Carter family in country music. You know what I thought? Jimmy Carter, President. I was confused. Now, how did the presidents suddenly get into country music? So many Carters out there?

Finally, where is today’s “Home on the range?” At Bob Everhart’s country music festival, I’d say, “where never is heard a discouraging word.” People, this was a lot of fun for me. Be sure to tune in for more country music soon at this station. I’ll play you some.

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15 Responses to Time Travel with Bob Everhart’s 40th Country Music Festival

  1. rita says:

    I salute Bob Everhart for keeping this music alive! Few are the places today where we can we hear the music of the Carter family and the others like them.

  2. Kate Earley says:

    What a small world this is… and it’s people like you, who make the connections, who make the world large in heart. Thank you always for bringing us such interesting stories and wonderful music.

  3. Sharon Hytrek says:

    Wonderful story – enjoyed very much!

  4. Mike Johnson says:

    What a great article! I remember when Bob started his organization around 1976, everyone laughed at him. Well, the laughs on them! I joined NTCMA around 1993 and in 2002 I was inducted into America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame.
    On 31 Augus 2015, at the 40th Old Time Country Music Festival, my young label-mate James Adelsberger was awarded the “Pure Country CD of the Year” Award by Bob Everhart on behalf of the Rural Roots Music Commission.
    Hats off to Bob and Sheila Everhart for sticking to their guns and preserving America’s Heritage Music!

  5. Doug Palmer says:

    I have known Bob, Shelia and Bobby Leah for quite a few years and can honestly say nobody is more dedicated to keeping Country Music as we old farts and jackasses know it alive. I used the term used by one of today’s so called country music artist, Blake Shelton. That is what he called us older generation folks who still want the real thing and don’t buy his CD’s. Bob and his family has provided many of us with the real thing for a long time.
    Thanks Bob, Shelia and Bobby Leah.

  6. Tom says:

    Congratulations Bob and Sheila for “keeping it real country” all these years. Many memories and lifetime friendships were forged that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Maria, you have also contributed faithfully with your zither playing and teaching – being one of many who brought an “imported” instrument and sound to this country. Thank you for the opportunity I’ve had to accompany a small vestige of this musical form.

  7. Dorothy Techau says:

    Hi, AnnElise, it was great meeting you. I taught the dulcimer workshop you took. You did a really good job learning. You need to get a dulcimer and continue with it. We enjoy Maria so much, also. Hope you can come to Bob and Sheila’s festival again soon.

    • AnnElise says:

      Dorothy, the spontaneous workshop with your dulcimer group gave me so much pleasure! You are a wonderful and patient teacher. Making these unique dulcimer chords calmed my mind. Keep this wonderful music going! See you next time . . .

  8. Red Johnson says:

    Hats off to Bob and. Sheila for all the hard work they put in the festival just so we can have a place to perform. The scheduling alone for 500 plus performers is an incredible task. Red and Flo Johnson

  9. how true, how true, none of use could begin to have the contacts Bob has to put on a wonderful show of good ol country music , my wife and I have been going to all of these festivals as far back as Avoca. enjoyed every one. Just keep on doing it and we will be there. Thanks a million. Delbert & Verlaine Hayes Norwalk, Ia

  10. Beulah says:

    I have attended Bob’s Festival many times but health will not permit me to travel like I used to. I do miss being able to go. The music is the best!

  11. Bob Everhart says:

    Hi Annelise
    What a nice story. I’m so proud of you, you’ve done well with your life, and your presence at our old-time music festival was an extra treat for me. I remember so well performing in Ascholding, staying at your parents house, eating great German food, and having fun performing with Jeff Doty. You arranged some truly unique and neat gigs for us, even a radio interview. And in Texas at your university I think it was the Cactus Club we played for. What a treat. Come see us again, and bring some nice people your same age with you, they are missing a lot, especially the music their grand parents listened to, and it’s still very pretty, and storytelling, and fun. Your friends, Bob, Sheila, and Bobbie Lhea Everhart

    • AnnElise says:

      Bob, people LIKE you a lot! Anyone who follows real, traditional music can appreciate what you have done to keep the musicians playing and the tunes alive over 40 years. You have earned yourself a top spot with good karma. Your friends know that you take your mission seriously. And it is rare to find persons who stay true to themselves, like you did. Know that you’re a gem. That’s all. Just keep the music going!

  12. Love the festival. Larry has been entertaining playing guitar and singing the real country songs (Hank Williams, Ray Price, Hank Snow, etc) at Bob’s festival for all 40 years. He is the only one still living that can say that and was put into the Hall of Fame in 2002.

  13. Maria Petersen says:

    What a beautiful story and you say it so well, AnnElise. It was delightful that you were able to come and visit us and be at this great 40th festival. I have fond memories of the many years we went to this one and only Bob Everhart Old- Time -Festival. I believe, we went to 38 of them, out of the 40. It was an honor to bring authentic zither music to the audience. Thanks to Bob & Sheila for all you’ve done!

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