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Carrollton’s Bluegrass Bash
moves to Point Park

Second annual event
to be held in July to ensure good weather

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

CARROLLTON, Ky. (July 2003) – Clay Cable has been in a bluegrass band, in one form or another, for the past 30 years. While growing up in Trimble County he had only a radio to listen to, but the music he heard on it became engrained in him for a lifetime.

Pick 'N Time

Pick ‘N Time

As a member of the Carroll County Bluegrass Music Association, Cable said he would like to see a bluegrass festival succeed in Carroll County. His band, the Interstate Bluegrass Band, will be a part of the returning “Back to the Past for the Future Bluegrass Festival” this year in Carrollton. The event is scheduled for July 11-12 and has been moved from the fairgrounds to Point Park, located at the confluence of the Ohio and Kentucky rivers.
“This event has wonderful potential,” said Robin Caldwell, executive director of the Carrollton-Carroll County Tourism and Convention Commission. “More tourism offices are looking at this type of a festival because it has been profitable in other areas.”
With no other similar event like this in the region, Carrollton has the potential to draw in large crowds for this event, she said. Tourism is the third largest industry in the state of Kentucky and the second-largest employer. And it is a driving factor behind the association’s push to establish an annual bluegrass festival in Carrollton.
Having assisted in organizing several similar events in Trimble County, Cable brings much needed experience to the association. His band will play both days, probably opening and closing the show, said Cable. Jam sessions featuring the essential bluegrass instruments – fiddles, mandolins and banjos – will be a part of the entertainment and were referred to by Cable as “a must” for a bluegrass festival.

 The Moron Brothers
 

The Moron Brothers

Local organizers have tried to book more regional talent in an effort to keep ticket prices down. This year’s list of performers includes the Moron Brothers, Pick ‘N Time, the Collins Brothers, Glory Bound, Lost Mill String Band, Runnin’ Tyme, Gary Strong and Hardtimes, Blue River Boys, the Interstate Bluegrass Band, Dan Branaman’s Tri-County Bluegrass Band, James White and Deer Creek, and the Gallatin County Bluegrass Club Band.
Although there may not be as many nationally known acts, organizers are hopeful that a tremendous show will be put on. “All of this year’s bands are based within 100 to 150 miles of Carrollton,” said organizer and association vice-president Chuck Webster.
“People in the area will be delighted and surprised in the talent,” said Cable. This will be a great event for local residents to attend, as most bluegrass festivals are too far away to go to, he said.
Complaints were raised last year about the festival location. Many felt the fairgrounds were too large and spread out with the stage being too far from food vendors and restrooms, said Webster. “We feel the smaller venue and beautiful location on the two rivers will be more suitable for a bluegrass festival,” he said.
Many events like this have a sort of reunion or homecoming air about them. Throughout the two-day event, five different food vendors will serve a variety of foods, including pork chops, chicken, cajun food, hamburgers, hotdogs, tenderloin sandwiches, home cooked type meals, funnel cakes and more. Bleachers will be provided, but bluegrass fans are invited to bring their own lawn chairs and blankets.

The Collins Brothers
 

The Collins Brothers

Most of the performing bands will play two sets at different times. Some will perform once on Friday and once on Saturday, while other bands will play two sets on the same day. Either way, if you miss a band’s first performance, you still have another chance to catch them throughout the weekend.
Last year’s inaugural festival brought in disappointing crowd numbers, due in part to cold and rainy weather. The October 2002 date “was chosen because it was near the International Bluegrass Festival’s Music Awards in Louisville the following week,” said Caldwell. By moving the date to July 2003 this year, organizers sought to overcome this problem.
“The group did everything they should’ve done in regard to advertising. Most people do not realize that these events are put on completely by volunteers – volunteers with jobs and families,” said Caldwell.
The association is a nonprofit corporation formed to help provide access to instruments and music lessons to children who otherwise might not be able to afford them. Members also strive to promote bluegrass music, which has roots deeply entrenched in Kentucky and southern Indiana. “Our goal is to keep this music alive and pass it on to future generations,” said Webster.
Association member and festival organizer Debbie Allen said she “grew up with bluegrass.” Her mother’s family played bluegrass music, so she was naturally influenced by it.
To many performers and listeners alike, the music is symbolic of their heritage. They can identify with real songs, written by and about, real people and experiences. One of the association’s goals is to instill this cultural identity into children, giving them an understanding of who they are and a sense of self-worth. The association would like to one day create a youth center in Carrollton where music can be taught.
Cable said of bluegrass music, “I was raised on that kind of music.” His uncles played various instruments, and he followed suit by learning to play rhythm guitar. In time he became lead singer of his own band.
Traditional bluegrass music tells a story from beginning to end, said Cable. It is largely based on Irish ballads migrating peoples brought with them to America. Acoustic instruments lend a melody that wraps itself around the words.
In southern Appalachia, folks often gathered to dance and socialize as bluegrass music played. It was a bond that bound them together, geographically and emotionally. Their songs were their heritage, which they carried with them to a new land and passed on to future generations.
Bluegrass is a style made popular by Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys when they first appeared on the Grand Ole Opry in 1939. Flatt and Scruggs were a major force in introducing bluegrass music to America through their performances on national television.
Cable said “Back to the Past For the Future” is a “brilliant idea.” The association is actually carrying on a concept developed during the 1960s when the term “bluegrass festival” was first introduced. Carlton Haney, from Reidsville, N.C., is credited with envisioning and producing the first weeklong bluegrass music festival at Fincastle, Va., in 1965.
In order to continue such a far-reaching musical tradition, time, nurturing and local support is needed, said Caldwell. “It is a perfect fit for the community and the area. The variables that are needed to make it work are there. The only one missing is human help.”

• For more information, call the tourism office at 1-800-325-4290 or visit: www.carrolltontourism.com.

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