Industrial Strength Bluegrass Festival, slated this weekend, receives major recognition

Area bluegrass fest is IBMA Event of the Year.



Long before it was rebranded the Industrial Strength Bluegrass Festival last year, Joe Mullins’ twice-yearly event was a regular stop for discerning Midwestern music fans. The three-day festival, returning to the Roberts Convention Centre in Wilmington Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 10 through 12, recently received some well-deserved recognition from the International Bluegrass Music Association.

“Son of a gun, if our festival didn’t win Event of the Year, nationally, at the Industry Awards in late September,” Mullins said. “The Radio Ramblers had a nice post-COVID resurgence this summer and toured everywhere so that was good. We’ve been to about 20 states in the last six months and that’s helping our festival as well as we spread the word about coming to Wilmington, Ohio. It was an exciting week at the IBMA convention for the band and my family. During the award show that evening, the band took the stage to accept and celebrate my dad’s big honor.”

Hall of Famer

Mullins’ father, Paul “Moon” Mullins, was a musician and show promoter but is best remembered for his 25 years as a disc jockey on WPFB in Middletown. He passed away in 2008.

“We found out in mid-summer my dad was being inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame, so we prepared for it,” Mullins said. “The veteran professional members are chosen to vote on inductees every year, so it was a great blessing.”

The Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum will have a booth at the festival throughout the weekend. There will also be an event-opening presentation on Moon at 11 a.m. Friday.

“Fred Bartenstein will join me, my sister and a representative from the Hall of Fame,” Mullins said. “We’ll discuss my dad’s career and his impact on bluegrass music, regionally and nationally, and what led to the Hall of Fame. Even though he’s been gone for 14 years now, the impact he had on bluegrass worldwide was huge. He was a great influence. Our festival and dozens of bluegrass events and bands are flourishing on the branches of trees whose roots he put down first.”



The performers

An appearance by the legendary Del McCoury Band on Saturday tops a full slate of acts like the Dan Tyminski Band, the Grascals and host band Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers. Music begins at 6 p.m. Thursday, and noon Friday and Saturday. Doors open at 4 p.m. Thursday, and 10 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

“One of the most established artists is Dan Tyminski, who is a 14-time Grammy winner,” Mullins said. “He toured beside Alison Krauss as a member of her band Union Station for many, many years after blasting onto the bluegrass scene in the Lonesome River Band. One of the biggest shots Tyminski ever fired is he’s the singing voice for George Clooney in ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ He’s the guy that sang ‘I’m A Man of Constant Sorrow.’”



Friday’s lineup includes the Grascals, Junior Sisk and Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley. Music begins Saturday morning with the Morehead State University’s Mountain Music Ambassadors, followed by acts like Chris Jones & the Night Drivers and the Kody Norris Show. The Del McCoury band closes out Saturday night.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had Del McCoury but we’re due,” Mullins said. “He’s headlining Saturday night. Del just won Male Vocalist of the Year from the IBMA. Even in the twilight of a 60-year career, he’s still one of the most powerful bluegrass leaders at the Grand Ole Opry. Having the bluegrass pioneer and his band on Saturday night is big, big stuff. Del is everywhere and he’s very generous.”



Beyond the stage

Music is the main focus but the festival also has raffles, booths and children’s activities. There is also a fundraising breakfast on Saturday to raise money for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Foundation of Ohio.

“The Radio Ramblers are hosting a fan feast breakfast,” Mullins said. “It’s a fundraiser and we’ll serve a full breakfast and be your wait staff. We’ll be gathering tips and generating a few thousand dollars for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a project (that) puts a book into the hands of preschoolers every month and is mailed directly to their homes.”

The initiative has been hugely successful in Ohio thanks to the support of Fran DeWine.

“When Mike DeWine took office, Mrs. DeWine made it her project,” Mullins said. “She’s now introduced it to all 88 counties in Ohio. The Imaginary Library Foundation of Ohio is going to have a booth at the festival. There will be a children’s area and some of the stars of the show are going to go out and read a book for a few minutes to any of the kids that are on property.”

Next season

Mullins recently announced the March 2023 lineup, which includes the Earls of Leicester, the ultimate tribute to Flatt and Scruggs from Jerry Douglas, Lonesome River Band and the Malpass Brothers. A private presale ticket sale for previous festival attendees starts on Nov. 15. All remaining seats will be available to the public at an early discount price starting Dec. 1.

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at


What: The Industrial Strength Bluegrass Festival with The Del McCoury Band, the Dan Tyminski Band, the Grascals, Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers

Where: Roberts Convention Centre, 123 Gano Road, Wilmington

When: 6 p.m. Thursday, and noon Friday and Saturday, Nov. 10 through 12; doors open at 4 p.m. Thursday, and 10 a.m. Friday and Saturday

Cost: $125 to $150 at the door for three-day reserved seating, $110 for three-day general admission and $85 for two-day general admission; single day general admission tickets are $35 Thursday and $45 Friday and Saturday; single day student tickets are $25 for 25 and younger; free general admission seating for youth 16 and younger with paid adult.

More info: 937-374-3636 or

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