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Fiddles & Strings

Inaugural Bluegrass & Gospel Bash
to feature 21 bands at Carrollton

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

CARROLLTON, Ky. – (October 2002) Richard Popp has a dream for Carroll County’s youth: to promote bluegrass music and expose young people to it by establishing a youth center.
To make the dream a reality, the eight-member Carroll County Bluegrass Association was created on May 22. Popp, the group’s president, wants to keep bluegrass music alive.

Lonesome River Band

Lonesome River Band

He feels confident that he can do this by developing a music and arts center to teach kids not only the fundamentals of bluegrass music, but also expose kids to a variety of music and artistic expression.
The association is moving forward by organizing what they hope will become an annual event. “Back to the Past for the Future” has been billed as a bluegrass and gospel bash to be held on Oct. 12-13 at the Carroll County Fairgrounds.
Popp was able to schedule a formidable lineup due to his contacts in the bluegrass business. He is a former tour bus driver and has spent endless hours of making calls to organize this event.
Some of the nationally known bands scheduled to appear are J. D. Crowe and the New South, James Monroe and the Midnight Ramblers, and Dale Ann Bradley and Coon Creek, the Collins Brothers, and the Osborne Brothers. Approximately 30 bands will be performing featuring many local and regional talents.
Kentucky Blue is a Shelby County, Ky.-based band performing at noon Saturday. In the 20 years the band has been together, banjo player Dave Cottrell said that the fast, upbeat quality of bluegrass music has always appealed to him.
“It’s happy music,” he said, another reason audiences seem so drawn to it.
He said most popular music is currently “computer music. There’s no soul to it. There are no flaws. It’s perfect. Music is not supposed to be perfect. In blues and bluegrass, all of the little imperfections are in the music, just like imperfections in people.”
Chuck Webster, vice president of the association, said this event will be “good for the community and bring a lot of people into the community.” Webster said he expects many festival-goers to camp out on Friday night, before the event.
For this event to be a success, the association depends heavily on exposure, and Webster thinks the timing is perfect.
Popp and Webster both attribute the success of the movie, “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” as instrumental in opening the doors to bluegrass music. “We want to catch people while they’re being exposed to it,” said Webster. The movie has provided “a window of opportunity,” he said.
To get the word out, the association has concentrated on a variety of different venues, such as out-of-community advertising, radio station commercials and morning TV show appearances.
“We’ve got a good lineup and we’ve promoted it hard,” said Webster. “We’ve had a person at 12-15 different festivals in southern Indiana and Kentucky promoting it.”

James Monroe

Photo provided

James Monroe, son of
legendary Bill Monroe

“Going back to our musical roots with bluegrass music to benefit Carroll County youth for the future. It’s a great concept,” said Carrollton/Carroll County tourism director Robin Caldwell.
The Carrollton/Carroll County Recreation and Tourism Board granted $8,500 to this project, said Webster. Other monetary sponsors include North American Stainless, Gallatin Steel, Wal-Mart, and Papa John’s.
This weekend event is packed with a variety of entertainment, including traditional bluegrass, gospel music and even bluegrass comedy provided by the Moran Brothers. After expenses are paid, all proceeds will go toward funding the youth center.
While no definite cite has been selected, plans are progressing for the center to include indoor intramural sports facilities. Popp said that when it comes time to decide on a name for the center, it might possibly be named after Michael Cleveland, a blind fiddle player for Dale Ann Bradley and Coon Creek.
Caldwell said Popp’s “ideas to build a place where children could learn how to play instruments and appreciate different types of music was terrific. He has local musicians who have offered to give lessons and has located a national foundation that would provide instruments to kids who cannot afford them.”
Webster said not enough kids get exposed to bluegrass music. An opportunity to study this musical form would encourage youth to examine and identify with their heritage.
To find a future in bluegrass music, the stereotypes surrounding it must be overcome. Cottrell said that movies made popular in the U.S. have stereotyped bluegrass as hillbilly music. His band toured Japan in 1993 and Bitburg, Germany, earlier this year. These countries are not aware of the stereotypes surrounding bluegrass music, said Cottrell, and therefore audiences really appreciate and enjoy it.
When taken back to its basic form, children can learn a lot about their heritage. Caldwell said such a center could be instrumental in developing talent, positive self-esteem, confidence and drive in young people.
Part of Popp’s mission is to involve the Carroll County school system by attending area middle and high schools to show students how to craft instruments out of cardboard and wood.
To spark student interest, the association is sponsoring a contest for the best instruments made. All winners receive free tickets for their parents to attend the festival. Several instruments, bearing the artists signature, will be raffled during the festival. Between 3,000 and 5,000 people are expected to attend.

* For more information, visit: www.carrollcountyky.com/bluegrass/.

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