BRIDGTON – When Kip Hemingway of Harrison looks up from his banjo these days, he sees something “absolutely awesome.”

“All of a sudden, in the past two or three years, there’s been a surge in kids from 12 to 18 years old,” Hemingway says. “I look out in the audience and there are kids everywhere. And then after the show, we go out and jam around the campsites, and these kids are out there with instruments, playing.”

Saturday, Jan. 31, some of Maine’s best will be picking and singing at the Old Town Hall on Route 302 as part of the fifth annual Deep-freeze Bluegrass Concert, beginning at 7 p.m.

The youngest member of the Hemingway Brothers and Crooked River band is 16-year-old Hunter Webber of Minot, who plays banjo and guitar beside Kip, Dale Hemingway and John Sparrow, also of Harrison, and Bruce Hobart of Mechanic Falls.

For the Hemingways, bluegrass music has always been a family enterprise. The Hemingway brothers learned it from their dad, who played guitar and clawhammer banjo and shared his records of bluegrass greats, including their favorite, the Stanley Brothers.

“My brother, Dale, started playing the guitar. I learned guitar first and then took up the banjo when I was 12,” Kip Hemingway said. “We just kind of went with it from there. My brother and I, being a brother duet, are very much in love with the Stanley Brothers, and we find it easy to sing their music because we get the same ‘brothers’ sound.”

Other bands featured at Saturday’s Night of Bluegrass will be Windy Ridge, Cumberland Crossing and Squash & Gourds, another family band with talented youngsters.

“Our band was conceived as fathers and their young children, but now the children are getting older and they’re starting to blow us poor fathers away,” said Dan Pierce of New Gloucester.

Samantha Pierce and Sarah Logan are only 12, but they’re keeping up nicely with their fathers, Carter Logan of Gorham, better known as a member of Jerks of Grass, and Pierce, who is with the band Weedwackers. Samantha plays bass, Sarah plays fiddle and both pitch in on vocals. Pierce’s sons, Jack, 14, and Tucker, 10, usually play with Squash & Gourds, but prior commitments will keep them from performing Jan. 31.

“My little joke is that’s why I had kids – so I could have a band to play behind me,” said Pierce. “Now I’m playing behind them. So the joke is really on me.”

Dave Lee of Bridgton organized the concert to benefit the Lakes Environmental Association and Maine lakes. The show will go on regardless of the weather. Tickets are available at LEA, the Cool Moose, Bridgton Books and at the door for $15 per adult, $25 per couple, $30 per family. This is a BYOB event with set-ups and snacks. Participants are invited to bring musical instruments for picking after the show.

For more information, call Dave Lee at 647-2550; or Peter Lowell at 647-8580 or e-mail [email protected]

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