The 40th anniversary of the “Festival of the Bluegrass” at the Kentucky Horse Park is being highlighted this year with a weeklong celebration called “Best of Bluegrass,” hereafter referred to by its affectionate acronym, BOB. This special event organized by the Lexington Area Music Alliance (LAMA) will run from June 3-8. The aim is twofold: to focus attention on the bluegrass music heritage of Lexington and the surrounding region, and to connect a major event at the Horse Park with Lexington’s downtown entertainment and restaurant scene.
The event has been in the planning for months by representatives of an eclectic collection of local agencies, businesses and organizations including the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau, Smiley Pete Publishing, Cornett IMS, LexTran, Lexington Fayette Urban County Government, Natasha’s Bar & Bistro, the Lexington Police Department, Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour, Red Barn Radio, Southland Jamboree, and the Downtown Lexington Corporation.
“Our aim is to build an annual festival using existing assets,” said Tom Martin, LAMA president and editor in chief of Business Lexington, “with the ultimate goal of attracting the International Bluegrass Music Association to Lexington, along with its big annual two-day convention and awards show.”
The Festival of the Bluegrass was named by Raymond McClain Sr. and was the brainchild of the Cornett family in the early ’70s.
AnnaMarie and Roy Cornett spearhead the festival. “The mission of the Festival of the Bluegrass is to celebrate Appalachian culture through traditional Bluegrass music,” said AnnaMarie. “We’re excited to be working with BOB to reach a wider audience.”
The feelings for Bluegrass music and the culture that surrounds it run deep, she noted.
“This is our 40th festival. We can’t think of a better way to honor the community of Bluegrass music than to celebrate for an entire week. The history here is so rich, so deep. We really want to honor that.”
The Festival has been staged at Walnut Hill Farm and Masterson Station Park over the years but has come to call the Kentucky Horse Park its home.
“The week begins on Monday, June 3 with a special bluegrass WoodSongs Old Time Radio Hour,” Martin states. “On Tuesday, Southland Jamboree will present its usual fare of live bluegrass. Red Barn Radio will tape a bluegrass show on Wednesday evening. And Central Bank’s Thursday Night Live will feature bluegrass music as the festival gets underway at the Horse Park that evening and continues through Sunday morning.”
Lori Houlihan, the Special Events and Community Liaison for the Mayor’s Office, has been part of the planning and organizing effort. “We’re building from a foundation of already-successful events. It illuminates what we already have.”
Much like the Kentucky Derby Festival in Louisville, which built on the already-existing horse industry and has now expanded to two-weeks’ duration, BOB would build on the established love of Bluegrass music and all that goes with it. One of the great strengths of BOB, Houlihan said, is that the momentum has been gaining for years with Festival of the Bluegrass and capitalizing on this forward motion makes plenty of sense.