John and Joyce Bowers hosted another successful Pickin' in Parsons this weekend at Five River Campground in Parsons.
The festival's fun, family atmosphere and impressive lineup, which included bluegrass greats like Ronnie Reno & Reno Tradition and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, drew people from around the world. John Bowers said, the festival seems to get bigger and better each year.
"I think we had about 2,000 people here this weekend," he said. "And, they come from all over."
In the last few years, he said they had guests from distant countries, including South Africa, Switzerland, Bolivia and England, as well as from all over North America.
John Bowers said attendees check into his campground up to two months before the festival.
"We have a lot of people that come early. They enjoy exploring the area - there is so much to do and see outdoors here. And Thomas and Davis, which are right down the road, offer a lot of cultural opportunities. They also really enjoy our community."
He said his guests usually are pleasantly surprised by the welcoming, friendly atmosphere that characterizes Parsons.
"People in Parsons are just nice," he said. "People like that."
Though John and Joyce Bowers founded Pickin' in Parsons, in many senses, the festival has become a community effort.
Jason Myers, Parsons city administrator and treasurer, spoke glowingly of the festival's presence in Parsons.
He said Parsons' mayor, Dorothy Judy, and City Council members do whatever they can to support the festival.
"We are thrilled to have them in our community, and we're thrilled to watch Pickin' in Parsons grow. We always reach out to see how we can help," Myers said.
John Bowers also said he and his wife work a lot with other businesses. One way they encourage their campers to patronize local establishments is by hosting a raffle that uses receipts from Parsons businesses as tickets. To enter the raffle, people must write their name and phone number on the back of a receipt from a local businesses.
"We have had a lot of success with that," John Bowers said. "It encourages people to buy stuff locally, and it also gives us some idea of the festival's economic impact."
Myers said in past years, Joyce Bowers has tallied the receipts and used them as a sort of baseline economic impact.
Usually, they total between $6,000 and $10,000. And, of course, most people make more than one purchase.
"People spend a lot of money when they come here," John Bowers said, "They come to vacation, so a lot of them are buying things like steaks and hamburgers to cook out. They want to have a good time."
Since some people arrive months before the actual festival, it is easy to see Pickin' in Parsons must have significant economic import for the town.
Perhaps equally important, though, is the cultural impact - while the festival does draw people from around the globe, it also is a big attraction for locals.
"This music did originate here, in Appalachia," John Bowers said. "Having festivals like this is one of the best ways to keep the tradition alive.
"Bluegrass is roots music, it's our heritage. I think people respond to that."
Myers agrees, and said Parsons is the perfect site for the music festival.
"There is just something about Parsons that I've never found anywhere else. Pickin' in Parsons is a perfect example of that. It's a wonderful festival, and it draws a lot of wonderful people.
"I'm so glad the Bowers are doing what they're doing - it's exactly what our town needs."
Contact Joe Hoover by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.