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     LeMars, Iowa.....It is considered by many traditional country music fans as 'The Last Outpost' of 'real' country music.  Going for 37 years, the name of the event... 'National Old Time Country-Bluegrass-Folk Music Festival, Contest, and Pioneer Exposition of Arts, Crafts, and Rural Lifestyle'... is nearly as long as it lasts.  This particular acoustic music event goes a full week from 9am to midnight every day.  According to their proclamation, 'it's seven days and ten stages of over 650 performers.'  How can that be?  We went directly to the Director, Bob Everhart, President of the National Traditional Country Music Association, a 501(c)3 non-profit group dedicated to the preservation of America's rural musical art forms.  Everhart said, "We started this event in 1976 as a means to provide a venue for our local and regional musicians who pursued this particular musical genre.  It was, and still is, a celebration of America's freedom, and a celebration of America's rural music, the very 'root' of all country music.  That's what the word 'country' stood for back then, and still does for us. We're actually 'in' the country, perhaps the most rural-country state in America.  Over the 37 years that we've been doing this living museum of music, it has grown, not only in attendance and musician participation, but in prestige and respect. Last year we were so privileged to have the legendary Patti Page come out of retirement to honor us with her presence and support, as she was inducted into 'America's Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame' another facet of the National Traditional Country Music Association.  Her works, such as "The Tennessee Waltz" has many ramifications.  Not only did she sell millions and millions of records doing that song, she shares induction in the same Hall of Fame that also inducted Redd Stewart and Pee Wee King, who wrote the song.  We have a very strong honest approach to music.  America has an incredible past, we're still a 'young' country compared to the rest of the world, and those of us who have a rural background still consider the music of rural America a priceless contribution to world music."
     Besides all the hoop-la of the festival itself, over the years it has attracted international attention.  One of the regular participants is known as the "Godfather of Country Music" in the country of Holland.  Ben Steneker, a well known, successful, and very popular recording artist of country music in Europe, is celebrating his 35th year as a participant in this amazing gathering of what he calls "true country music fans."
     Steneker has an envious record of country music sales in Europe as well as other parts of the world.  Working with Dutch country song-writer Dick VanAltena, together they have created a very 'real' world of country music reminiscent of America's own developing musical art form.  According to Steneker, "Bob Everhart records for the Smithsonian Institution, and has made many many tours performing his 'style' of country music in Europe.  The first time he came to Holland, I owned a performance center, and we had him.  He completely sold out every seat we could possibly make available on every trip after that.  It was amazing.  In the United States he shares his love of this music he is so devoted to, and it is my extreme pleasure to be able to be part of what he is doing in LeMars, Iowa."
     According to Everhart, "It's kind of a mutual respect we have for each other when it comes to Ben Steneker.  He has an incredible voice, and his strong desire to do American country music makes him special in America as well as in Europe.  He's also a very good performer with stage presence that is somewhat lacking in some of today's country music stars.  That's what makes 'returning to the roots' such an important project for us.  We have well over 650 performers on ten stages all week long (August 27-September 2, 2012), but it is these gifted international stars that make it 'happen.'  Much like the presence of Patti Page, Whisperin' Bill Anderson, Jim Ed Brown, all in just the last couple of years, demonstrates the importance of our work as music preservationists.  That doesn't mean we simply live in the past.  We have country music songwriting competitions as well as shows at this event, and we hear some of the best 'original' country music with direct root connections happening today."
     Ben Steneker added one footnote to his fond memories of performing on Bob Everhart's national old-time music festival.  "Last year, a great fan of mine here in Holland, Jaap van Aalst went with me to America.  He was suffering from severe cancer and could not be healed anymore. His last wish in life was to go with me to the USA, and see for himself the festival that Bob Everhart directs.  I am thankful that so many people gave him the "best" last days of his life.  The local hospital provided a wheel chair for him for fee, strangers provided a small camper for him to sleep in free, Bob Everhart made every stage and every performer availble to him without charge, he even received free food at the event, and every American he met at this festival made him feel at home.  He passed away a week after the event was over.  He died a happy Dutch man."
     More information about this festival is available at http://www.ntcma.net

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