STORY & PHOTOS BY SUZANNAH COUCH

BEAN BLOSSOM — As the sun dipped in the sky over Bean Blossom, the sounds of fiddles, banjos and mandolins rose in the summer breeze.

Bill Monroe’s Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival returned to the music park for the 51st year last week. More than 70 bands graced the stage where the bluegrass legend himself once played.

On June 14, eight bands played an ensemble of bluegrass classics, gospel music and even original tunes from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., with a 30-minute break from dinner.

Folding lawn chairs with names written on the back held spots for fans who had to wander away from the stage during sets.

Brown County resident Joe Thompson has been attending the festival for 15 years.

“And I’ve been buying tie-dyes all those years,” he said, standing at Russell Clem’s T-Shirt City booth.

Friend Jon Lucke, from Indianapolis, has been coming for 13 years. That evening he was getting advice from another friend on the best tie-dyed suit jacket to buy.

Local woman Claudia Langley had spent the entire morning in her kitchen making maple cupcakes with white icing that were topped with bits of bacon.

She makes them each year for the festival since “she can’t play an instrument or sing,” and they also help raise money for the Bean Blossom Bluegrass Boot Camp for children ages 6 to 18.

What does that taste like, exactly? Tommy Lamb tried and found out: “Like a hot stack of pancakes with a side of bacon,” he said.

Albert Hall sat on the back of his golf cart next to The Dog House Concessions, waiting on his steak burger to be served up. Since 1970, Hall has been coming to the bluegrass festival. “I might have missed one or two,” he said.

This was the first time Victoria Dovensky attended, and it was spur-of-the-moment.

She was in the middle of driving cross-country from California to Pennsylvania when she decided to stop and see what it was all about.

Her smile showed it was worth the stop.

“It’s awesome,” she said.