BLUEGRASS BY THE RIVER
Kiwigrass a top summer pick
Kiwigrass — billed as New Zealand’s first national bluegrass festival — is attracting a host of well-known local and international acts to the scenic setting of the Narrows Park camp near Hamilton in February.
The Kiwigrass idea was hatched last year due to the association between the family of camp proprietors and members of the renowned musical Trenwith family.
The Narrows Camp beside the Waikato River is commonly known as The Narrows. It is owned by a Christian-based notfor-profit trust and under the management of director Al Belcher. Al had got to know Tim and Sam Trenwith, the musical sons of legendary banjo picker Paul Trenwith, who were often involved in camp events and programmes. Paul is tutoring Al’s son Malachi, 13, in banjo.
“I got talking to Paul and thought why don’t we create a bluegrass festival,” Belcher said.
Paul Trenwith said the first question was when to hold the event and a festival management team was brought together lead by Jenine Abarbanel, the bass player with north Auckland band The Pipipickers, banjo-player Nat Torkington, guitar-player Barry Torkington, Rhodeworks patriarch Bruce Rhodes and several others.
“We thought The Narrows Camp would be the logical place to hold the festival. It’s central, it’s near the facilities and conveniences of Hamilton and nearby towns and only minutes from Hamilton airport. Festivalgoers aren’t trapped out in the wilds,” Trenwith said.
Drawing on the Trenwiths’ extensive list of contacts the more-than three-day programme will offer performances on up to three stages around the camp, blackboard concerts, displays by skilled instrument makers, impromptu jam sessions, master-
classes and specialist workshops in the days leading to the festival.
Headline acts so-far include the Lonely Heartstring Band from the United States, Australian visitors Bluegrass Parkway and Nine Mile Creek, the Hamilton County Bluegrass Band featuring original members Paul Trenwith and Alan Rhodes, The Pipipickers, Rhodeworks, Hot Diggity, Wires and Wood and many more.
Trenwith said the festival was focused on bluegrass but other folk-style players were welcome.
“As a first-time event we would be happy to attract about 300 people. There will be a variety of concerts on different stages to cater to varying tastes and levels of performance.”
The Narrows Park can provide accommodation in the form of powered and non-powered camping sites suited to tenting, motorhomes and camper-vans. It also has a 120-bed bunkhouse and four on-site kitchens. Food and refreshments are available.
Belcher emphasised the festival was not an all-out public event. Festival-goers were required to register. But people could turn up on any day and gain entry by registering at the gate.
For further details and festival registration visit www.kiwigrass.nz or check out facebook.com/kiwigrass. www.facebook.com/NarrowsParkChristianCamp or call 07-8426862.
■ Kiwigrass will be held at the Narrows Park, 442 Airport Rd, Hamilton, February 1-3 2019.
Legendary banjo picker Paul Trenwith with learner Malachi Belcher, 13. Paul is one of the people behind Kiwigrass the first national bluegrass festival.
A view of the Waikato River from Narrows Camp.
The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band will be one of the headline acts at Kiwigrass.