Bluegrass fest rocks Ninilchik

Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2002

It may be 15 miles off the beaten path, but on a warm summer weekend, the open grassy fields, remote location and rolling landscape of the Straight Inn in Ninilchik make a great place for a bluegrass festival.

The inn, at Mile 15.5 of Oilwell Road off the Sterling Highway in Ninilchik, held its second annual Bluegrass Festival Friday through Sunday.

The festival offered areas for weekend camping, horseshoes, volleyball and other activities, open mic time, food and a beer garden in the inn and, of course, hours of live bluegrass performances.

Performers included Melvin D, Rev. Poor Child, Susan Ward, Atz Kilcher, Ginger Boatwright, 3-Legged Mule, Wishbone Creek, Sammy Bussard, a barber shop quartet, the Jackson Brothers, Mark Born and Clarks Gospel, Deb Wessler and Terry Holder.

"We wanted to get local talent on the peninsula," said Gigi Zoubek, who owns and runs the inn with her husband, Rocky. "So we could get people who like bluegrass music and have something fun in the summertime."

Friday and Saturday's performances were in the bluegrass genera, while Sunday's performances were mostly gospel music.

"Bluegrass music makes a better atmosphere than rock music," Zoubek said. "It brings more families."

The festival had a mellow atmosphere where performers and listeners kicked back and enjoyed the music and each other's company.

There was a schedule and timetable for the event, but performances generally started when someone picked up a guitar, and ended when the last musician decided to call it a night.

"Things like this depend on when people go to bed and start moving around in the morning," Zoubek said. "It's kind of relaxed."

The festivities ended each night with musicians and listeners gathered around a pickin' fire.

The inn set up a bonfire pit surrounded by stools where anyone with a guitar, harmonica, singing voice or some other musical talent could gather and jam the night away.

The Zoubeks started the festival as a way to draw business in the summer. The Straight Inn is primarily a winter lodge, as it is located on the edge of the Caribou Hills and sells parking for snowmachiners in the winter.

The Zoubeks have run the Ninilchik business for about 10 years and built a large new building with a kitchen, bar and rooms to rent two years ago.

The building had a higher cost to maintain, so the Zoubeks started holding events in their off season to generate more all-year business.

The bluegrass festival, held on the same weekend as the Kenai Peninsula State Fair to hopefully draw those visitors, is one such even. The inn also hosted a blues festival over the July 4 holiday. In the winter, it holds a New Year's Eve party with fireworks.

For more information about events at the Straight Inn, call (907) 567-7443.

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