A self-described “nerdy kid” took the public stage probably for one of the first times more than half a century ago at the Donner Park shelter house.

After he has spent a lifetime playing everything from Chicago clubs to major music festivals, Roger Banister still remembers. Local musician and music store owner Tom Pickett encouraged him at that long-ago, summertime Donner Park Variety Show.

“Actually, Tom always has been very encouraging and great to me,” said Banister, 65, a popular banjo, mandolin and fiddle player. “I’m sure my dad probably brought me in there (to the store) to kind of show me off.”

Banister will perform with two separate groups at a double-billed, free Donner Park Variety Show with the Banister Family Bluegrass Band and also Cottonpatch from 7 to 9 p.m. July 22. The Banisters’ ensemble genre speaks for itself, and its set list will include songs such as “Salty Dog Blues” and “Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms.” Cottonpatch specializes in soft, folk-rock tunes, and its set list is expected to include tunes from artists such as The Byrds, the Beatles and John Prine.

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Each group is expected to play for about an hour.

“I love these shows,” Banister said of the gatherings that hearken to another era. “They’re cool and they’re community.”

Most recently, the Banisters have been what organizers of the Columbus Farmers Market have described as something of the “house band” at that event, playing about monthly. And Cottonpatch has been seen most recently at events such as festivals and fish fry events. Plus, it is well-known to the local nightspot scene such as 4th Street Bar & Grill.

The free events are marking the 20th anniversary year of its revival, according to Pickett, who said he loves the idea of giving new artists a shot at a friendly, live audience. The Columbus Evening Kiwanis Club, WCSI Radio and Columbus Parks and Recreation Department sponsor the series.

The shows began in 1926 but reached a peak of popularity in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Area singers, musicians, dancers, bands and other performers entertained in an age before TV or air-conditioning. The shows ended for a number of years before Kiwanians revived them in 1997.

“I figured out back then (in the 1960s) during those shows that I really liked that pat on the back (from an audience),” Banister said.

If you go

What: The next Donner Park Variety Show featuring the Banister Family Bluegrass Band and also Cottonpatch.

When: 7 to 9 p.m. July 22.

Where: Donner Park shelter house near 19th Street and Lafayette Avenue.

Admission: Free.

Information: Tom Pickett at 812-372-6700.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.