10th Annual Smoked Country Jam

CROSS FORK -This year, the Smoked Country Jam Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Each summer, the festival has brought nationally known bluegrass and country bands to central Pennsylvania at Quiet Oaks Campground in support of the Lupus Foundation.

Along with musical acts, there also will be raffles to win a Smoked Country Jam quilt made of T-shirts from the last decade and an auction for a chainsawed sculpture created by professional, Kevin Treat.

Over the last decade, they have been bringing in lovers of bluegrass and the outdoors from all over the state and country. This year, there is going to be positive changes to the festival, such as a second stage and longer set times for each band.

“The new stage will be called the ‘Pennsylvania Wilds Stage’ which will have a limited performance schedule on Friday and Saturday,” said Ron Kodish, event director.

He explained that they have lengthened each bands’ set time from 45 minutes to an hour, so they decided to add another stage. This will give people a choice as to which bands they want to see perform.

“This is a big-time event. Two stages and 40 hours of music with bands that make their living off making music,” he said.

One of the bands playing for the first time at the festival is Nora Jane Struthers and the Party Line from Nashville, Tenn.

“I think it’ll be a fun weekend,” said frontwoman, Nora Jane. “The other bands look great.”

The band calls their sound “Appalachian Americana,” which she explained as a combination of American styles of music.

“We’re drawing from many genres, like blues, country, folk, bluegrass and Americana,” she said.

Her music and lyrics are inspired by her life experiences, other people and literature.

“I think that each song has its own kernel of my experience that changed the way I see or interact with the world,” Jane said, “I’m trying through song to pass that along to other people.”

The band has recently released their sophomore album,”Carnival.” The album is packed with story songs such as the title track, which describes a trip to a fair.

With her music and live shows, Jane strives to “take people out of their own lives and into these story songs, where they can get a glimpse of somebody else’s experience or have a new experience.”

She hopes that after their set, people will be able to have new perspectives on life.

Other musicians that will be present are: Hot Day at the Zoo, the Hillbilly Gypsies, Van Wagner, Winchester Virginia, The Band of Strings, Mama Corn and many more.

While this may be a bluegrass festival, there will be more going on than just musical performances. There will be dancers, workshops and the professional chainsaw carver.

The workshops will be conducted by professional musicians who have been playing for many years. There will be groups that will be teaching guitar, upright bass, mandolin, songwriting, harmonica and many more.

Rather than people simply coming to be spectators, they can play with other bluegrass musicians as well.

“Bluegrass jams will be going on until the sun comes up,” Kodish said.

Another unique addition to the event will be the Boomtown Hoops, who are dancers who manipulate props from Martinsburg, W. Va.

“We take various props and dance with them along to music,” said Stephanie Bruch, the head performer and instructor.

Bruch teaches exercise and performance classes that focus on dancing with hoola hoops, fans and batons.

“We stay fairly local … dancing at fairs and festivals,” she said, “Sometimes we join in with the band and improv.”

Bruch had attended the Smoked Country Jam in 2010 and through mutual friends got to do a fire hoop dance with the Hillbilly Gypsies on stage.

“It was the best crowd response ever,” Bruch said. “People were standing up and hollering, it was awesome.”

With such a positive reaction to her performance, Kodish remembered her and invited her for this year’s event.

“Every night we will be doing a fire dance,” she said, “People will have fire hoops, staffs, fans and batons. Some of it will be choreographed but sometimes people go off and do their own thing.”

With so much in store for the Smoked Country Jam, there certainly will not be a dull moment.

The festival will be from June 20 to 22 at Quiet Oaks Campground in Cross Forks. Tickets may be bought by visiting www.smokedcountryjam.com.