Mike Williams never gets tired of performing at the Western Hills Winter Bluegrass Festival — even after 20-plus years.

"It's just good music, good people and good instrumentation," said Williams, who also is a home builder.

Williams looks forward to this year's event, marking its 41st year, as it begins its three-day run, starting tonight and continuing through Saturday at Sequoyah Lodge in Sequoyah State Park. The park is located eight miles east of Wagoner on Oklahoma 51.

This year, 11 bands will perform over three days. The bands are coming as far away as Winslow and Malvern, Arkansas, Edmond, Seminole, Oklahoma City, Crescent, as well as Muskogee.

Williams' band SpringStreet is one of the Muskogee bands taking the stage for all three days.

"We've had the band for 30 years," he said.

Mike Davis and The Bluegrass Travelers also will perform all three days. Davis, the owner of Square Deal Music and Sound in downtown Muskogee, will even donate a Washburn guitar during the festival.

"Anything to do with music, we try to help out," he said. "Bluegrass is my first love. We've played bluegrass in nursing homes. (The festival) is always a blast. It's always family-friendly, and that's what I like about it."

Steve Thomas, the son of festival founders Don and Wilba Thomas, said his parents began the event to fill the winter months.

"There were no festivals in the winter time and they started the show for bands to come and have the opportunity to work on new material," Steve Thomas said. "It was also a chance to meet new people and possibly get bookings. It's been good for all these years."

New bands playing this year includes The Begonias from Edmond, a three-piece group.

"They're not exactly bluegrass. It's a husband and wife and they use a drummer," Steve Thomas said. "Not many groups hardly use a drummer. We try to get different bands to play, but we're limited on time and seating. That's why we couldn't book any major acts. We want to have a local feel to it."

Bluegrass music was started by Bill Monroe in 1945. The music has undergone changes through the years, but remains popular, Thomas said.

Other performers at the Sequoyah Lodge include The Neverly Hillbillies, Heartland Bluegrass, Garland Blocker and Blue Tradition, The Roving Gamblers, Interstate 30 Bluegrass, Steel Wind, The Horn Family and Foust Family Bluegrass.

The festival will also feature workshops on Friday in 45-minute intervals starting at 11 a.m. and continuing through 4:15 p.m.

"If we don't have kids involved in bluegrass, we don't have a future," Thomas said. "The workshops are a very important part of the show."

If you go

WHAT: Western Hills 41st annual Winter Bluegrass Festival.

WHERE: Sequoyah Lodge at Sequoyah State Park, 8 miles east of Wagoner on Oklahoma 51.

WHEN: Thursday through Saturday. Shows start at 7 p.m. Thursday; 7 p.m. Friday; and 1 and 6:40 p.m. Saturday.

INFORMATION: Jimmy Bryson (405) 612-0415.

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