Things are changing this week, as the 21st Annual American Heritage Music Festival gets underway in Grove.

While some may view change as bad, festival creator Jana Jae said the changes - which include a full band contest - help the festival continue to keep the main thing the main thing.

Everything remains about the music.

On Friday, participants will take part in the new event - the first "Bluegrass to Bob Willis Acoustic Band Showdown.

The contest, open to local and area bands, costs $20 per entry. Participants will perform for the audience - with those watching serving as the judges.

The winning band will receive a complimentary recording session at Teegarden Studios in Tulsa. Additionally, organizers said several booking agents plan to attend, making it a good opportunity for area bands to showcase their talents.

The competition is slated to begin at 11 a.m., and go until 5 p.m., on Friday, June 8, at the Grove Civic Center. 

Kathleen Pixley, festival executive director, said the competition may begin earlier in the morning, if additional entries are received this week.

Another change, Jae said, comes as the judges move from being sequestered behind closed doors, to out front, center stage.

This means, Jae said, contestants may find themselves adding a bit more "show" to their performance.

The fiddle contest, which begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 9, and continue throughout the day, will end with the final competition and headline concert at 6:30 p.m.

During the finals, participants will perform in a "round robin" playoff - which Jae said consists of the top three to five players all being on the stage at the same time, each performing songs as determined by the judges. 

For example, Jae said, judges may request players each play a waltz, or a swing, or another genre of fiddle music.

"It really puts the artists on the spot," Jae said. "They have to think fast and play well."

Friday's competition levels have also changed up a bit. While the student levels: Pee Wee (ages 6 and under), Jr. Jr. (ages 10 and under) and Jr. (ages 15 and under) remain the same, all players from the ages of 16 and older will perform in the open division. A senior division will also be available for those 60 and above.

Another change to the contests adds a spotlight on the guitarists who accompany the fiddlers.

Jae said the guitarist will have a chance to perform with the fiddler of their choice, to showcase their talents.  

Performing on Saturday

Jae said she's excited to bring the Western Flyer trio to Grove, to serve as the headline group for this year's festival.

"They are just fun to listen to," Jae said, as she described the music played by the three members: internationally renowned guitar master Joey McKenzie, National Swing Fiddle Champion Katie Glassman and world-class upright bassist Gavin Kelso.

The group, she said, has a distinctive cross between western swing, hot jazz, cowboy songs and old-time fiddle tunes.

"It's just going to be a fun festival," Jae said. "I can hardly wait."

Did You Know?

On Tuesday, June 5, Jana Jae will share stories from her life - as well as some musical tunes - at 5:30 p.m., during the next "Celebrity Storyteller" event at the Grove Public Library.

The event is free and open to the public. The Grove library is located at 1140 NEO Loop, Grove. For more information, persons interested may call 918-786-2945.

Schedule of events

Thursday, June 7

Welcome party

Snider's Camp (in the event of rain, Grove Civic Center)

6:30 p.m. - open stage entertainment featuring the festival fiddlers, Jana Jae, Barry Patton, along with the 30 minute Band Contest and the Prairie Breeze String Band.

Participants are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs. The event is free and open to the public.

Friday, June 8

Bluegrass to Bob Wills competition day

Grove Civic Center

10 a.m. - Registration

10:30 a.m. - Bands draw for order of play

11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - Band Showdown

5 p.m. - Audience applause determines winner.

Friday, June 8

Festival Sponsors Appreciation Night

6:30 p.m., at Snider's Camp

Includes performances by the Festival Fiddlers, Prairie Breeze String Band, Jana Jae, Barry Patton and The Coleman Sisters.

Contests include the Honey Creek Gamblers Contest and the "Anything Goes" Hot Fiddle Contest.

Admission is free. Participants are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs. A bbq dinner, fixed by Drake's Restaurant, will be available for $10 per person.

Saturday, June 9

Fiddle Competition

on the South Side of the Grove Civic Center

8 a.m. - Registration

9 a.m. - Fiddle competitions begin

- Pee Wee, Jr. Jr., Junior, Senior, Accompanist

Noon - The Western Flyers (sneak peak)

(Concessions/lunch buffet/sandwiches available for purchase)

1 p.m. - Fiddle contest continues

- Grand Champion Open Division Round 1

- Twin Fiddle Contest

- Take me back to Tulsa Contest (best Bob Willis tune, groups must include a fiddle)

- Grand Champion Open Division Round 2

on the North Side of the Grove Civic Center

Throughout the day, jamming and warming up areas.

Dinner break

6:30 p.m. - Evening concert hosted by Splinter Middleton, MC will begin.

Featuring an opening number by Jana Jae & Friends

The Western Flyers

Top 12 Open Division Awards

Top 3 Open Division Round Robin Playoff

Grand Champion awards.

Note: Schedule subject to change – Times may vary due to the number of contestants For tickets, contest registration, or further information, persons interested may visit www.grandlakefestivals.com. 

If You Go

Tickets for adults and students respectively are as follows:

$30 and $15 for an all event pass

$8 and $3 for Friday day only

$10 and $5 for Saturday day only

$15 and $8 for Saturday evening only

$24 and $12 for Saturday all day

Tickets may be purchased at Gallery Southwest at 10th & Main, Grove, or online at www.grandlakefestivals.com, or by calling 918-786-8896.

Did You Know?

Grand Lake Festivals receives assistance to put on the American Heritage Music Festival from numerous local and area sponsors including: the Oklahoma Arts Council, The National Endowment for the Arts, the City of Grove, the Grove Convention and Tourism Bureau, Cherokee Nation and a host of staff and volunteers.