And the band plays on

David Lynch with Horseshoes & Hand Grenades instructed students in how to play the harmonica last year at the Bighorn Bluegrass Camp. The camp is set to return to the Johnson County Fairgrounds this year despite the absence of the long-running Big Horn Mountain Festival.

Don’t be blue – the Bighorn Bluegrass Camp isn’t going anywhere.

“I have heard from a variety of community folks concerned about whether camp is happening or not since the Big Horn Mountain Festival was canceled this year,” camp organizer Karen Blaney said. “But there are plenty of people in this community who want to keep the camp going even though it isn’t attached to the festival this year. We believe that the skills kids pick up at this camp are important, and we want to keep the fun going.”

The Bighorn Bluegrass Camp will be held July 15-19 at the Johnson County Fairgrounds, according to Blaney. Blaney is accepting applications from musicians young and old who want to learn how to play guitar, fiddle, mandolin, upright bass, cello, harmonica and more.

“We are expanding our offerings this year,” Blaney said. “We’ll have a ukulele class for the first time this year. In addition, one of our instructors (Horseshoes & Hand Grenades bass player Samual Odin) plays the saw and will teach some of our students how to do that. I think kids will get a kick out of that.”

Blaney said the camp will also offer classes for adults this year due to community demand.

“Over the years, a lot of adults have expressed interest in the camp so Lynn Young is going to be the teacher for an adult bluegrass jamming track,” Blaney said. “We’re pretty excited about that. After all, why should the kids have all the fun?”

As in past years, instruction will be provided by the members of local bluegrass band Prairie Wildfire and Wisconsin-based Horse Shoes & Hand Grenades, who are returning to the camp for the third time.

“We’re really grateful that the guys in Horseshoes & Hand Grenades continue to make this camp a priority even as their national recognition is growing,” Blaney said. “I think all of them see the value of this and want to be a part of it in any way possible.”

Per tradition, the weeklong camp will end with a campers’ concert, Blaney said. With the Big Horn Mountain Festival canceled this year, Blaney is teaming with the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce and Longmire Days to host a concert at Prosinski Park on July 19. Prairie Wildfire and Horse Shoes and Hand Grenades will also perform.

Blaney said the camp can accommodate as many as 50 or 60 students, including both children and adults. Registration costs $250 before the end of May and will increase to $275 in June.

While the price tag may seem steep, Blaney said, the investment is well worth it.

“I think I’ve been quoted as saying that this camp is the best $200 I have spent on my own daughter, and it’s really true,” Blaney said. “I’ve seen how much she’s grown socially and musically through this experience, and I feel I would be selfish to not give that same experience to other kids.”

Scholarships to the camp are available courtesy of the Occidental Jam Fund, Blaney said.

“We want every kid who wants to go to be able to go,” Blaney said. “This is not about making money for us. It’s about creating a memorable experience for the kids.”

Registrations for the Bighorn Bluegrass Camp are available at Reride Western Wear, the Occidental Hotel, the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce and Cloud Peak Elementary School. The camp is offered through grants provided by the Wyoming Arts Council, Johnson County Recreation District and Johnson County Arts and Humanities.

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