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Spring Festival this weekend in Gays Mills offers lots of fun
In Gays Mills
Sapsuckers to perform 2023 Folk Music Festival
THE SAPSUCKERS will provide the headline performance at the Mother's Day Weekend Folk Music Festival of Music and Dance Saturday night concert in Gays Mills.

GAYS MILLS - The 29th Annual Gays Mills Folk Festival of Music and Dance has a special touch to it–the Sapsuckers will be one of three acts in the big Saturday night concert.

The Sapsuckers, a well-known local music duo, are Nikki Grossman and Joe Hart. Their music might be classified as Americana–trending toward country. And, it is very popular both locally and elsewhere.

Both performers are songwriters and their original tunes will be strongly featured in the performance at the folk festival concert.

However, Joe was quick to point out the Sapsuckers started as square dance band playing at weddings and there will be more than a touch of traditional tunes sprinkled among the originals.

The Sapsuckers use a duo harmony technique more common to country music in the 1920s through the 1950s. This harmony was common in the music of the Blue Sky Boys and the Everly Brothers, Joe explained.

In addition to their excellently performed vocals, the duo are accomplished guitar players and more.

Nikki is recognized as an excellent fiddle player. Her partner Joe believes she’s one of the top five fiddle players in the Midwest. And, he probably would know having played with several other top-rated fiddle players over the years.

In addition to playing guitar, Joe plays the mandolin. He noted those who attend the concert on Saturday night might just hear the occasional kazoo in the mix. Sounds like fun.

Many in attendance might be familiar with the Sapsuckers’ first album release ‘Don’t think about tomorrow tonight,’ which features a song with the same title.

Most every song the duo does has two arrangements–one for their duo performance and another to be performed with band members. The Sapsuckers work with a variety of other musicians, when they add sidemen and become a band.

Performance at home

What does performing at the Gays Mills Folk Festival of Music and Dance mean to the Sapsuckers?

“It’s awesome,” Joe said. “It’s like we’re playing two-and-a half miles from our home. We’ve attended the festival for years just for the fun of it.”

“I’m super excited,” Nikki said. “I love the Gays Mills Folk Festival. I think it’s fantastic that they asked us to play.”

Actually, Joe served on the folk fest committee at one point. And, he and Nikki served as emcees for the concert one year.

They’ve also participated in a variety of workshops on Saturdays, played in the fiddle bees and attended the Friday night square dances.

And, yes they, along with daughter Neva Rose Grossman, have danced around the Maypole a few times.

“It sort of feels like a homecoming, Joe said of the Sapsuckers role in the 29th Annual Gays Mills Folk Festival of Music and Dance. Joe noted the Sapsuckers have a song called Ocooch Mountain Home–here’s hoping they perform it Saturday night.

“We’ve always participated heavily in the folk festival, but this the first time we’re actually going to perform,” Nikki said. “It’s special to be asked to do it here. It feels like an honor and a privilege.”

Although Joe really couldn’t remember playing a gig much closer to home, he noted that since the COVID pandemic lots of gigs are much more local than before its onset.

“In the years before COVID, we might play two local gigs a year. Now, I’d say about 90 percent of the gigs we do are at least somewhat local,” Joe said.


Joy of performing

What’s the favorite part of performing?

“The best part about it is it’s a way, like a platform, to share who I really am,” Nikki said. “It’s a special way to connect with people.”

The duo will release a new album this year that they recorded in St. Louis. It includes ‘You can be right.’ The song examines the idea of leaving an unhealthy relationship and explores what the other person may be thinking. It is similar to songs that have been done by Tom T. Hall or Willy Nelson, according to Nikki.

As excited as the Sapsuckers are about their upcoming Saturday night concert performance, the couple noted there is a lot more to the weekend.

At the concert, they will share the stage with Awful Purdies and Ember. Although they’ve never heard either group perform they’re excited to get to know them.

Fun at Folk Fest

And there’s so much more to folk fest.

“There’s the May Crown making and the Maypole,” Nikki added. “We’ll be around We’ll be everywhere.”

Kevin Dohse, a folk festival organizer, saw putting the Sapsuckers into the concert as a fine idea.

“They write great music; they do great songs They’re close and they're from here. It’s just kind of logical.” Dohse said of getting the Sapsuckers for the concert.

Dohse was not real familiar with the Awful Purdies, but noted they had been playing around Northeast Iowa for the past 30 years.

“Awful Purdies is a Folk-Americana collective of five multi-instrumental women, powered by seamless harmonies, banjo, accordion, cello, guitar, mandolin, and bass,” the group’s press release states. "The sound is an earnest nod to traditional American music, folk, old country, bluegrass, honky tonk, and soul. 

“The live performance experience is intimate, containing both humor and insight,” the release notes. “On stage, Awful Purdies actively share gratitude and support of one another and take turns stepping up as lead singers and songwriters.

“Since 2006, Awful Purdies have been raising families, telling women’s stories, advocating for human rights, and engaging with their communities in Eastern Iowa.”

Ember is an all-voices welcome, intergenerational hybrid in-person choir and virtual singing class that brings to life polyphonic folk music from European singing traditions.

Maypole Dance 2022
THE AGE OLD tradition of the Maypole Dance and the making of May Crowns will once again grace the shores of the wildlife rich slough behind the Gays Mills Public Library this Mother's Day weekend. Come out and celebrate Spring!

Spring Fest schedule

There’s lots to do in the Village of Gays Mills on Mother’s Day Weekend, Friday, May 12 through Sunday, May 14. The apple trees are blossoming, mo-rels are popping, and it’s time to come out and cele-brate spring!

The schedule of events is as follows:

Friday, May 12

• Folk Festival Square Dance at the Community Commerce Center on Highway 131 starting at 7 p.m.

• Kickapoo Exchange Chili Supper from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Gays Mills Mercantile Center 120 Sunset Ridge Avenue (across Highway 131 from Community Commerce Center)

Saturday, May 13

• Old Iron Revival Tractor Cruise, will start at 10 a.m. (meet at Halver’s Town Tap), with a brat cookout and meat raffle at Halver’s Town Tap, to benefit North Crawford FFA, at 2 p.m. For Tractor Cruise details, call Jim Wedeberg at 651-253-4038 or Wendell Showen at 608-293-1089.

• Ridge & Valley Little Britches Rodeo at the Craw-ford County Fairgrounds, starting at 9 a.m.

• Folk Festival of Music & Dance, including the May Crown-Making and a Maypole Dance, at the Community Commerce Center (in front of the Library (on Highway 131) from noon to 5 p.m.

• Apple Royalty Corona-tion, and Apple Pie and Ice Cream Social Fundraiser, at the Old Community Build-ing  at 212 Main Street, starting at 2 p.m., with the coronation at 3 p.m.

▪ Pickleball for All, from noon to 2 p.m. Folk Festival Chili Supper at the Gays Mills Mercantile Center (across from the Library), 5 to 7 p.m.

• Folk Festival Evening Concert, at the Community Commerce Center, starting at 7 p.m., featuring Gays Mills-own Sapsuckers with the Awful Purdies and Em-ber

Sunday, May 14

• Ocooch Mountain Rescue Pancake Breakfast, at their building at 111 Royal Avenue (north of Gays Mills on Highway 131) from 7 to 11 a.m.

• Folk Fesitval Gospel Sing, starting at 11 a.m., at the Lions Park in Gays Mills

• Second Sunday Flea Market kickoff behind the Mercantile Center, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

• Ridge & Valley Little Britches Rodeo at the Craw-ford County Fairgrounds, starting at 9 a.m.