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Country music festival in Long Beach benefits food pantry

The halls of the Long Beach Public Library were hardly silent on Saturday night when The Roadhouse Band took the auditorium stage.

About 75 people filled the auditorium as the band blasted Americana and country favorites like “Proud to be an American” and “Footloose.” Before The Roadhouse Band started their set, Mick Hargreaves and Mike Bifulco brought their electric slide-steel guitar duo to the stage.

“We’re able to give people the opportunity to be exposed to music that they might not necessarily go to the city to see,” said Johanna Mathieson-Ellmer, 64, one of the event organizers. “We bring it here.”

The library and Long Beach-based nonprofit Artists in Partnership Inc. held their second annual Kickin’ Country Music Festival and Food Drive this weekend to help celebrate Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. The country music celebration debuted three years ago but was canceled last year because of superstorm Sandy.

Admission was free but the audience was asked to bring canned food to go to the Long Island Cares Harry Chapin Food Bank. Mike and Lisa Bivona, of Wantagh, were the Long Island Cares volunteers for the night.

“We know Long Beach has been hammered pretty hard in the past year so we wanted to try and help,” Mike Bivona, 52, said about their decision to volunteer at the music fest, “and to listen to some country music.”

“We’re just trying to help people who are having a hard time right now,” Lisa Bivona, 51, added.

As of Saturday night, attendees had purchased about $300 worth of raffle tickets. Half of the money goes to the Friends of the Long Beach Public Library. The other half goes to Artists in Partnership.

The festival continues Sunday with family activities starting at 1 p.m. and Brooklyn-based bluegrass band Astrograss taking the stage at 2 p.m, followed by Walking the Line, a Johnny Cash and June Carter Tribute Band.

Mathieson-Ellmer, director of Artists in Partnership Inc., said the best parts of the Kickin’ Country Music Fest and Food Drive are the people.

“I love the music -- I love to meet the musicians, people that I never met before, I’ve never worked with before but I love the audience," she said.

Tags: Long Beach Public Library , Kickin Country Music Festival , Artists in Partnership , Long Beach

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