PIckin' on the Plains Bluegrass Festival

Pickin’ on the Plains Bluegrass Festival

At the 2019 Pickin’ on the Plains Bluegrass Festival, organizers Jo Booth (left) and Susan McLemore talk about the festival’s 2020 headliner, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, and how the Colby bluegrass festival started.

Pickin’ on the Plains Bluegrass Festival brings top-notch talent 

Since its inception 24 years ago, Pickin’ on the Plains Bluegrass Festival in Colby has sought to bring top-notch performers to Northwest Kansas.

Bringing chart-toppers to Colby

Grammy winner Rhonda Vincent & The Rage have been the headliner for several years, including 2019. Vincent and her band were 19th on the most recent bluegrass chart, while Kenny & Amanda Smith were listed fourth. The Smiths and their band were also present at the 2019 event.

A family-friendly event

Hearing artists from the top of the music charts is not the sole attraction for bluegrass fans.

As Vincent said in one of her sets, bluegrass is a family-friendly genre of music. “You can bring all your family to a bluegrass festival and know everyone from babies to grandmothers will enjoy it.” Then Vincent recognized a family who had brought four generations to the festival.

“You can bring all your family to a bluegrass festival and know everyone from babies to grandmothers will enjoy it.” 
Rhonda Vincent
Queen of Bluegrass

The Colby festival group works hard to retain the family atmosphere. Sitting and listening to music all day — no matter how entertaining — can be an endurance contest for children. Pickin’ on the Plains realizes that and always has kid-friendly activities as well.


Chess at Pickin' on the Plains Bluegrass Festival
Chess board and pieces set up in the shade

Several chess/checkerboards were set up with other board games available under the picnic tables.

Eric & Roxie at Pickin' on the Plains Bluegrass Festival
In our chairs at Pickin’ on the Plains Bluegrass Festival

Bluegrass chair rules

The festival is held underneath a tent. Bring your own lawn chair and leave it as long as you intend to attend the festival.

The unwritten rule states that no one is allowed to move someone else’s lawn chair. When a desirable chair is empty, anyone may sit in it, but must vacate the chair when its owner returns.

Eric took a vacation day on Friday to attend the festival, but he had to work on Saturday. Because he wouldn’t be returning, we took his chair home and left mine.

The next morning, the lady next to me asked, “Did someone take your husband’s chair? We’re supposed to be able to leave our chairs and I hope no one took his.”

I explained the situation and she was happy. “It’s so nice that [the festival] is a safe environment,” she said.



eating at Pickin' on the Plains Bluegrass Festival
Navajo fry bread taco with refried beans and Spanish rice from Inno-Native

Smells great and tastes even better

The lady next to me brought the most-luscious smelling meal. I hadn’t been hungry until she brought that. Anything that smelled so wonderful had to taste fabulous. Of course, I bought one and I ate every bit. I don’t tend to like tacos; they’re messy. These Navajo fry bread tacos were not messy and they tasted every bit as good as they smelled.

A few minutes after I finished eating, a man several chairs away asked what I’d had for lunch. When I told him, he went to the same vendor. Word-of-mouth advertising is great.

Pro tips for enjoying Pickin’ on the Plains Bluegrass Festival

  • For the best value, buy your tickets ahead instead of at the gate. Buy a weekend pass if you have any chance of attending more than one session.
  • Set up your chair at the edges of the tent. The misters will spray you more often and keep you cooler. The east side of the tent offers the most shade during the afternoon heat. 
  • Bring plenty of water, sunscreen and mosquito spray. Colby Convention & Visitors Bureau’s booth often has bottled water, but providing your own means more bottled water for others. No alcohol is allowed.
  • To escape the heat, use the air conditioned restrooms in the 4-H Building on the north side of the grounds. It’s a longer walk than the restrooms to the south, but it has an additional benefit. The bands’ reserved area is in that building. They often practice and jam between their sessions and can be heard in the restroom area.
  • Come to the festival Thursday night for a pre-festival potluck dinner and jam. It’s open to the public.

Enjoy more of Northwest Kansas

Read our posts about the Top 10 Things You Should Do in Goodland, which includes America’s First Patented Helicopter, and the Butterfield Trail Museum in Russell Springs.


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