Rhonda Vincent Marty Raybon The Grass Cats and The Gibson Brothers Rodney Dillard & the Dillard Band Al Batten & the Bluegrass Reunion Sunny Sweeney

Music lovers from around the state will have an opportunity to enjoy some foot stomping pickin’ and grinnin’ as bluegrass and country entertainers take to the stage for the Neuse River Music Fest on Feb. 17 and 18 in the gymnasium at Lenoir Community College.

The Neuse River Music Fest, formerly known as the Kinston Winter Bluegrass Festival, will feature headline entertainers Rhonda Vincent and Sunny Sweeney. The LCC Foundation sponsors the event and all proceeds benefit the College’s scholarship program.

Tim Woodall will serve as the master of ceremonies for the two-day event.  Opening ceremonies will start at 3 p.m. Friday and at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Sweeney will tentatively perform at 8 p.m. on Feb. 17 and Vincent at 4 and 9 p.m. on Feb. 18.

Festival goers have the chance to purchase VIP tickets in advance, which includes backstage access, VIP seating and parking for both days of the event, private receptions with Vincent and Sweeney, and access to the entertainers’ hospitality room.

This year’s bluegrass entertainment, sponsored by Pepsi, will include fan favorite Rhonda Vincent. She began playing music with her family when she was just a child. As a young girl, she started learning mandolin and fiddle. She’s received dozens of International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) and Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA) awards and nominations through the years, including Entertainer of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year. Since recording her first single at the age of eight, Vincent has recorded 24 albums, worked with Dolly Parton, George Jones, Faith Hill and others, received over 40 awards, and was dubbed “The New Queen of Bluegrass” by the Wall Street Journal.

In addition to the continued tradition of bluegrass music, the LCC Foundation is expanding this year’s festival by adding country entertainment to the program. Sponsored by WRNS, country performer Sunny Sweeney will also perform at this year’s event. She began her country music career after being encouraged by her friends and family.  Sweeney played her first gig in 2004, went on to nail down weekly spots at various honky tonks, and then headed off on a small European tour.  Soon after she landed a record deal with Big Machine, and her debut, Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame, was released in 2007.

Sweeney left Big Machine and signed to Republic Nashville. In 2010, she released the single, “From a Table Away”. It hit the number 10 spot on the U.S. Country Chart, and in May of 2011 she became the highest charting Billboard debut single from a female country artist in four years. Her full-length debut for the label, Concrete, was released in August 2011.

Bluegrass and country fans will be treated to an entire weekend of music, food prepared onsite by Bojangles’ and the LCC Grill, RV parking, raffles, and more.  “The volunteers, committee, staff/faculty, Eastern North Carolina Bluegrass Association, and LCC administration are vital to the success of this event. Thanks to all for the continued support,” LCC Director of Institutional Advancement Jeanne Kennedy said.

Jamming rooms are available for ticket holders only. RV parking is available for two-day ticket holders. The event is presented in conjunction with the Kinston Convention & Visitors Bureau. The Free Press is the media sponsor. King’s Restaurant sponsors the hospitality room for entertainers and Backstage Pass Holders. Quality Inn is the festival’s host hotel. Call 252-527-3200 to make your hotel reservations.

Tickets are available to fit any budget. Reserved two-day tickets are $60 and two-day door tickets are $70. Individual door tickets are $35 for Friday and $40 for Saturday. Ticket price for children 12 and under is $12 each. An adult must accompany children at all times. All VIP tickets are $125 for adults and children. Advance one-day tickets are $25 for Friday and $30 for Saturday. Advance two-day tickets are only $50.

For more information about the Neuse River Music Fest, contact Kennedy at 233-6812 or Special Events Coordinator Sharon Miller at 233-6843. For tickets, call 233-6865 or write to Lenoir Community College Foundation, P.O. Box 188, Kinston, NC 28502-0188.

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