The notes from twanging banjos, soaring fiddles and rumbling bass spread across the Grange fairgrounds Friday afternoon.
But not all of the resulting bluegrass music was coming from the official stage of the seventh annual Remington Ryde Bluegrass Festival.
The four-day festival, being held for the first time in Centre Hall, has drawn thousands — and counting — to the fairgrounds. And music springs from in and around the hundreds of RVs parked there.
Unofficial jam sessions, like the one Friday afternoon near the bandshell, filled the air with classic and familiar bluegrass melodies — guitar, banjo and fiddle players taking turns improvising the lead.
Players said the spirit of those sessions, which puts the accomplished together with the novice and the familiar together with strangers, is what helps define bluegrass festivals like Remington Ryde.
“It’s going to get even better tonight when all the bands on the main stage are done and everyone gets together,” said Tom Kapinus, of Reedsville, who was jamming Friday afternoon with his brother, sister-in-law and several others.
Organizers said the sessions can go well into the wee hours of the morning.
Kapinus and his family, who have played the festival for years when it was held in Reedsville, made the trip this year for the Centre Hall debut.
The partnership with the Grange fairgrounds is something festival organizer Ryan Frankhouser hopes to continue as the event grows.
“It’s been unbelievable,” Frankhouser said Friday of how the festival has grown over the years.
“We have good talent and me promoting like crazy,” he said as the James King Band finished an emotional set. “He’s a bluegrass legend. They are all here. There so many good acts. That’s what’s drawing them in from everywhere.”
Frankhouser said attendees were there from 18 states and from Canada. License plates from as far away as Tennessee could be seen in the packed parking lot.
And if Frankhouser has his way, the festival is only going to grow from here.
“I plan on expanding this crowd and having this be one of the biggest bluegrass festivals in the country,” he said. “That’s my goal. They are doing so much for the community — going into the stores and buying. It’s like a Penn State game.”
In addition to the legends who will take the stage during the four-day event, some youngsters are being given the chance to shine.
Sixteen-year-old Grace Kensinger, of Manheim, had toes tapping as she and her bandmates took the stage after the James King Band’s set.
“I like the sound,” said Kensinger, who has been honing her banjo skills since a young age. “I like that it’s upbeat, fun and informal. It’s just a fun genre.”
The festival will continue Saturday with music on the stage from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and on Sunday, organizers said.