HANNIBAL, Mo. -- America's Hometown is becoming a bluegrass destination again. The Hannibal Bluegrass Jam will be held Jan. 19 and 20 at the Comfort Inn & Suites, 4000 Market St.
Aaron Steckel, one of the event organizers, loved attending the Land of Mark Twain Bluegrass Festival once held annually at the same Hannibal hotel. When the festival was discontinued in 2009, Steckel began to miss it after a few years.
"I missed the camaraderie. You only get to see each other (bluegrass musicians) about once a year," he explained. "I went to the same hotel and asked about having a similar event, and they were all for it."
This is about the fifth year for the Bluegrass Jam, Steckel said. Through word of mouth, the event has grown in participation. Last year, between 50 and 70 people attended.
"It's not the same as the previous festival. For this one, there are no hired bands that play throughout the weekend. It's just musicians who get together and play," Steckel explained. "People will play in the lobby, the hallway, their rooms. It's a lot of good music and a good time."
There is no cost to attend the jam. People who want to participate only need to get a hotel room for $75, which is a special rate for festival attendees. Steckel, a banjo and mandolin player from the Alton, Ill., area, said people who have attended the jam in the past have come from across the region.
"I'm glad we started this. If you come, you can jam with anybody, and it's a lot of fun," he said. "It's a cool thing to look forward to, and it grows every year."
Hannibal has been home to a bluegrass festival since the 1970s, and in their heyday, the festivals attracted about 3,000 people to the weekend events, according to The Herald-Whig archives.
The Indoor Bluegrass Festival started in February 1978. That year, several Northeast Missouri residents formed the Tri-State Bluegrass Association, which would organize future area bluegrass festivals.
The association's website said that in 1982, the group started an annual November fiddle contest in addition to the Indoor Bluegrass Festival. Years later the fiddle contest was changed to the Land of Mark Twain Bluegrass Festival.
Both the November and February festivals continued in Hannibal for 27 and 31 years, respectively. In 2009, the Land of Mark Twain Bluegrass Festival was renamed as Back to the Roots of Bluegrass Festival and held in Quincy, Ill. That festival closed after 2010.