One might liken John Bowers and his wife, Joyce to Ray and Annie Kinsella. In the 1989 movie Field of Dreams Kinsella was a novice farmer who kept hearing a voice that whispered, “If you build it, they will come”, and he would see a baseball diamond. His wife, Annie, was skeptical, but she allowed him to plow under his corn to build the ball field.
John Bowers grew up on Bluegrass Music and attended many festivals. He had a dream of one day having his very own a bluegrass festival.
The Bowers lived in French Creek. John worked as a sales representative for a plumbing company, Joyce worked as a caregiver. While attending one of John’s father’s auctions they talked with Debbie Stevens, a local realtor from Parsons. John told her of his desire to start a Bluegrass Festival and said “find me a place.”
Stevens knew of the old city park which was owned by PRO and John’s dream started to become a realty. Like Annie, Joyce was skeptical, but she agreed.
The Bowers sold their five bedroom house and 120 acres which included free gas and everything they owned except for a 30 foot camper. They arrived in Parsons with that camper, what they stuffed into it and their eight year old daughter. Still John believed “If you build it, they will come”.
A campground was never really in the dream but, after getting the property from PRO, that began to materialize. In the movie when
Kinsella’s brother-in-law warned him not to proceed with his dream he heard a voice urging him to “go the distance.” and Bowers did.
John quit his job and started on his dream. The first festival was a one day event showcasing seven bands and buckets and buckets of rain. The event was attended by approximately 50 people and the admission was $10. Camping was limited until August of 2004 when they started out with 10 full service camp sites.
In 2007 the Bowers purchased additional land with a mobile home. They moved from the camper into the mobile home, moved the stage from the original site to the ‘big field’ in order to accommodate the growing crowd.
Ten years later John works as a production supervisor at Armstrong Wood Products, Joyce manages the campground, and their little eight year old daughter is all grown and a freshman in college. The campground features 61 full service sites, over 200 primitive sites, two bath houses, 15 modern restrooms, eight showers with unlimited hot water, laundry facilities and a beautiful view of the Shaver’s Fork River. The Bluegrass Festival has grown from a one day event with seven bands to a four day event with 20 bands performing 40 show over the four days. They also host a one day free Bluegrass Fair which everyone is welcome to attend.
Kinsella and Bowers had a dream … “If you build it, they WILL come.”
The second annual free Bluegrass Fair will be held on Saturday, July 27. The tenth annual Pickin in Parsons will be held July 31 through Aug. 3. Information and/or tickets are available by calling 304-478-3515.