Promoters Adams & Anderson announced several months ago the they would discontinue the Lewis Family Festival after this year. Although no official reason was given at the time, Norman Adams cited the current economic decline in a Television interview broadcast from Augusta during the festival.
Although the music, fans and the road have been kind to the Lewis Family, the years have continued to roll by. Mom and Pop Lewis have passed away. Wallace died of Parkinson disease in 2007. Polly was diagnosed with Parkinson disease several years ago with, and the disease has progressed more rapidly in the past year. Against this bleak backdrop, Papa and I made the eight hundred mile trip to Lincolnton, Georgia for the Lewis Family’s annual Festival, a journey which has become a pilgrimage of sorts for many people.
Several years ago, Polly’s daughter, Shari and her husband Jeff Easter began a fund raising campaign to turn the old Lewis Family homestead into the museum. On the Tuesday evening preceding the festival, The Easters and the Lewis family combined to hold a concert which raised about five thousand dollars toward continuation of the museum project. Papa and I were sorry we heard about that benefit too late to arrange to be there.
Lewis family fans are a remarkable collection of individuals. We were in the company of fans of Bluegrass, Bluegrass Gospel, and Southern Gospel music. It is fair to say that the Lewis Family has made friends and fans everywhere they have sung over the past almost sixty years.
Over the course of the Festival I traveled an emotional roller coaster that would be difficult to describe. Images and thoughts are rolling through my mind faster than I can process them. Here are a couple, then I’m off to mow the foot deep lawn.
Miggie. Miggie recently has surgery on her foot, and her doctor advised her not to go to the festival grounds. She did receive visitors at the house, and we were happy to be among them. Miggie is the oldest of the Lewis Family children, and she has an amazing memory of people and places. She introduced us to her cousin right away, saying, “They’re from Michigan, but we see them everywhere.” She was correct. Her foot is healing well, and she’ll be fine.
Dailey and Vincent! We’ve seen their fine band more that twenty times, but it still amazes me each time. I finally turned to Papa, and said, “Nobody does that!” If you have an opportunity to see them anytime, anywhere, do it! I think the magnitude of what they have managed to do with their talent came into focus when I read the liner notes from their most recent CD, which were written by Fred Bartenstein . Buy the CD. Play it. Read the liner notes. Right. Now.
Big Johnny Ridge hollering, “It takes three woman to hug him, and a boxcar to lug him, Al Batten!”
Earl! Shown here on stage with Rebekah (center) and Lizzy (right) Long. He sat at Lizzy’s table, he visited, he jammed, he played and signed Gary Jackson’s banjo , he had a big smile on his face most of the weekend.
And Polly. During the last show, when Esley and Roy were clowning around on stage, she was laughing, and how. During the mic check Roy said, “Say something, Polly.” She said, “I’m here, and I’m glad to be here!” At one point, she said, “I want to thank Janis for singing my part, I just can’t do it.” She was on stage for five of the six appearances the Family made, quite remarkable. Although her illness has affected her voice, she sang on most songs.
After almost sixty years of traveling and singing, a wonderful career is winding down. There really wasn’t a dry eye in the place, mine included.
Just to make the information I have completely clear, Adams and Anderson has discontinued their sponsorship of the Lewis Family Festival. Roy Lewis along with Jeff and Sheri Easter announced that they will sponsor a two day show, Friday and Saturday of the same weekend next year. More details will be announced later, but it will be held at the Lewis Family home place, which is being renovated and will be a museum.
Specific to the Lewis family, dates remain on their schedule. Roy said, “I don’t know when our last show will be, it will depend on Miggie and Polly.” Little Roy and Lizzy have recorded a new CD, set up a website and are booking dates now.