Miles City Bluegrass Festival: Music on Wings

Bluegrass bonanza comes to Eastern Montana Fairgrounds Sept. 16-18

On Stage

The Miles City Bluegrass Festival – Music on Wings – delivers another bluegrass bonanza to the Eastern Montana Fairgrounds Sept. 16-18.

Colorado's High Plains Tradition adds seasoned harmonies to the Miles City Bluegrass Festival.
Colorado’s High Plains Tradition adds seasoned harmonies to the Miles City Bluegrass Festival.

Now in its 24th year, the festival includes High Plains Tradition, the Edgar Loudermilk Band, Song Dog Serenade, Cotton Wood and The Blue Stems.

Ron Mills, a native of Virginia who had grown up with bluegrass and wanted to share it with Montanans, launched the festival more than two decades ago. Although he has since moved back to his home state, the festival he started continues to thrive.

It was initially a one-day event, held at the KOA campground. Now, the three-day festival typically attracts hundreds of fans from several states and Canadian provinces.

Chairperson Gloria Tucker became involved the second year and has continued ever since, helping to organize the festival with a core group of about five volunteers. “I’ll do this until God tells me I can’t anymore,” she says. “To me, music is food for the soul. It’s a universal language to be enjoyed by all, young and old alike.”

Miles City Bluegrass Festival roster

High Plains Tradition: This Colorado-based band was formed in 1987, by founders Doug Elrick, mandolin, and Kenny Pabst, bass. In addition, the current lineup features Steve Gilmore, guitar; Mark Leslie, banjo; and Bobbie Vickery, fiddle. The quintet, known for stellar harmonies, has played in venues all across the western United States and in Canada and Ireland. While their music is rooted in traditional bluegrass, they’ve added a flair of their own.

Edgar Loudermilk Band: Influenced greatly by his father and grandfather, Edgar Loudermilk cut his teeth on bluegrass. His current band boasts potent chemistry and stage dynamic. Members include guitarist Jamey Pittman, mandolin player Zack Autry, banjo player Wes Pettinger.

“Among contemporary lead bluegrass singers, Edgar Loudermilk has one of the most distinctive, recognizable, and enjoyable voices in the business. His crisp baritone lead is powerful, cutting, and expressively tuneful,” writes Bluegrass Unlimited.

Song Dog Serenade: The trio of Scott Moore on guitar, Nate Smallwood on mandolin and Paddy Moore on upright bass formed Song Dog Serenade in 2012 for a bluegrass showcase, and in 2017, Mike Blohm joined on banjo and Dobro, adding another layer to their sound. The band’s name is derived from the unique song of the Montana coyote — or Song Dog as it was called by early Native Americans.

Cotton Wood: An acoustic bluegrass group from Central North Dakota, the quartet has been performing for nearly 20 years.

The Bluestems: Hailing from Elgin, ND, these young players have entertained at fairs and festivals across their home state and are making a name for themselves in traditional music.

The festival starts at 7 p.m. Friday with an open stage. A workshop is on tap at 9 a.m. Saturday with the Edgar Loudermilk Band, followed by a dozen hours of nonstop music beginning at 10 a.m. and wrapping up at 9 a.m. with a Band Scramble. Sunday brings six hours of music, starting at 10 a.m., and concluding at 4 p.m. with a raffle drawing for an instrument.

Concessions and camping are available. Tickets are $5 Friday night; $25 per day for adults ($40 for weekend pass); $10 for students ($15 for a pass); and free for kids 12 and younger.

Visit or call 406-234-2480 or 406-853-1678.