The Wakarusa Bluegrass Festival was founded by Ed Tom and the late Mel Schrock in 2005, with the first festival held behind the Come-n-Dine restaurant (now the Corner Café). It was moved in 2006 across the street to a larger venue with a converted semi-trailer as a stage. This continues to be the only outdoor annual bluegrass festival in Elkhart County. Under the leadership of a small Board of Directors and dedicated volunteers, WBGF was granted 501-c-3 (not-for-profit) status in 2009, and has partnered with the Family Christian Development Center in Nappanee, IN and has donated to other area charities.
During the festival’s first few years, the venue was a Saturday stage show, and eventually expanded to include a Sunday morning gospel bluegrass service, then a Friday night open-bluegrass jam, and in following years, educational events were added to the Friday afternoon schedule.
The festival began honoring an area person or group who have been instrumental in Michiana bluegrass music. Ethan Shelton, age 109, was the first Honorary Chairman in 2012. He attends local jams and festivals, and always has his uekele handy. The 2013 festival honored the Michiana Hymn-tymers, an area group dedicated to bluegrass gospel music for over 40 years.
Past festivals have featured Larry Sparks, Audie Blaylock and Redline, the Tommy Webb Band, Special Concensus, Michael Cleveland, Virginia Crossties, Volume Five, Lilly Mountaineers, Rock Island Plow Company, Meyer Bluegrass, and other nationally-known and local bluegrass bands. We even had a world-class yodeler at the 2013 festival.
WBGF has received grants from the Indiana Arts Commission (The Community Foundation of St. Joseph County) and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federally-funded program. Sponsor and individual donations provide additional funding.
Our mission is to promote and preserve traditional American bluegrass music, and to provide the opportunity for attendees to enjoy affordable entertainment .