In 2011, the Bluegrass Evanston Committee was formed by a group of local citizens. They were interested in creating a world-class music festival for the community. An additional objective was to raise money to help maintain Evanston’s connection to its sister school in Kenya, Africa. (See A History of the Build African Schools – Evanston Project.)
In 2014, Bluegrass Evanston was incorporated as a 501c3 charitable organization whose purpose is to produce an annual regional bluegrass festival to raise money for its educational initiative:
In 2019, The Bluegrass Board approved transitioning ownership & hosting of The Evanston Bluegrass Festival to The Arts Inc of Southwest Wyoming (TAI). The transition was completed in mid-2021. The Arts Inc is excited to continue hosting this vibrant, engaging festival.
In February 2008, Evanston High School partnered with the nonprofit organization “Build African Schools” to bring the plight of children living in remote villages in southern Kenya to the forefront of the thoughts of our students and community. This began as part of a 21st Century Skills initiative and was intended to bring global awareness to our little part of the world. The problems that confront African children on a daily basis such as little access to clean water, scarcity of food, HIV/Aids, no electricity or running water, no healthcare, and lack of education, are issues that we can hardly comprehend.
Build African Schools founder, Patrick O’Sullivan, a retired computer executive, became an unlikely hero of providing educational resources to this impoverished part of the world. Upon a visit to southern Kenya, while vacationing in Africa, he was touched by the children’s overwhelming desire to learn in the midst of huge obstacles–no schools, no materials, itinerant teachers delivering instruction under a tree while students scratched out their lessons in the dirt.
Since meeting with Patrick, we established our own “Build African Schools Project” and spent two years raising money through penny drives, garage sales, concerts, and various small-town fundraisers to achieve our goal. We raised $35,000, which was matched by a private donor, allowing us to build the school. Another of our goals was to spread awareness about how the acts of one small community in rural Wyoming can have a positive impact on the lives of hundreds of children halfway around the world.
Bluegrass Evanston was born out of the desire to maintain the connection between Ndatani school and Evanston, Wyoming.
The Evanston school in Ndatani Village, Kenya was built in June 2010.
A small delegation from Evanston comprised of teachers, students, and community members traveled to Kenya in July 2010 to participate in the dedication of the Evanston school.
Our presence was celebrated with much singing, dancing, and speeches as well as a village-wide feast.
Ndatani Village Secondary School starting accepting students in January of 2011. We returned to the school to see the students, teachers, and progress that has taken place at the school.
Bluegrass Evanston provided two $1000 travel scholarships to Evanston students to offset the cost of traveling to Africa. We also presented a $1000 donation to the Ndatani school for much-needed educational materials.
Tristen Belnap, a senior at Evanston High School, attended the 2013 trip to Kenya and was so moved by a preschool we had visited, that she decided to raise money to construct a primary school in their village as her senior project, as well as learn how a nonprofit organization operates. She didn’t quite raise enough to build a school, but we were able to help her donate $2500 to the Ndatani Secondary School for textbooks and materials.