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Banding together for a benefit

Bluegrass buddies will perform in memory of a master of the mandolin.

Peggy Haftl-Fanny stumbled across a bluegrass song while flipping through TV channels. She hadn't heard that type of music played in her Hockessin, Del., home since her father, Joe Haftl, passed away in 2006 at the age of 64.

Although she's more of a classic rock fan, Haftl-Fanny grew up hearing her father play the mandolin at concerts in the Kennett Square area, Delaware, Virginia, and other states.

"Because my dad was gone, [I had thought] that part of my life was over," said Haftl-Fanny, 40, who lives a few miles south of the Pennsylvania-Delaware border. But then "I thought, well, it doesn't have to be."

So she invited some of her father's former bandmates, and children of his former bandmates - including headliners Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass - and others to play at the Bluegrass Memorial Benefit this Saturday, from 2 to 7 p.m., at Anson B. Nixon Park in Kennett Square.

Proceeds will benefit the hospital where Joe Haftl's family says he received the best care during his three-year battle with leukemia: the Cancer Center of Chester County, a joint service of the Chester County Hospital in West Chester and the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

Through organizing the concert, Haftl-Fanny has connected with many of her father's former bandmates, and gained a better understanding of him. One common refrain among friends hasn't surprised her, though.

"All my dad ever wanted to do was play," Haftl-Fanny said. "He didn't care how much, where he had to go, whether they were getting paid or not. He just wanted to play."

He worked full time first for the Philadelphia Bulletin, then Butts Ticket Co. in Cochranville. But on nights and weekends he played with bands, including the Rose Valley Boys, Ted Lundy and the Southern Mountain Boys, Southbound, and most recently FretLoose.

"It was easy to make him into a crutch. He could carry the enthusiasm for the rest of the band. He could get you that up," said Alan Breeding, a 49-year-old from Greensboro, Md., and a former banjo player with FretLoose.

Joe Haftl's regular hangout was the weekend concerts at the old Sunset Park in Jennersville.

The onetime music hot spot hosted everyone from Hank Williams to Dolly Parton, from its opening in the '40s to its closing in the '90s.

"That was his mainstay," said his wife, Debbie Haftl. "They would listen to the bands and then they would have jam sessions."

He and his wife lived in Hamorton, near Kennett Square, for 27 years, then moved to Smyrna, Del., a few years before he passed away. He kept his passion for music until the end, said Debbie Haftl.

Once, an infection forced him to stay in the hospital for 10 days. His release date was the same day of a FretLoose performance.

"He got out that afternoon, and made me drive him all the way to Dover to play in that concert," said Debbie Haftl. "That's how he loved the music."

If You Go

When and where:

The Joe Haftl Bluegrass Memorial Benefit will take place Saturday from 2 to 7 p.m at Anson B. Nixon Park, North Walnut Street (off State Street), Kennett Square.


Tickets cost $20 for adults and $5 for ages 13 to 18. Children under 13 enter for free.

For more information

, call Peggy Haftl-Fanny at 302-547-0250, e-mail bluegrasscause@, or visit



A limited amount of food and beverages will be sold, and audience members are encouraged to bring their own food. Alcohol is not permitted.