’23 Camp Springs Labor Day Bluegrass Festival kicks off

Cindy and Terry Baucom/Ronald Smith at the ’23 Labor Day Bluegrass Festival – photo © Gary Hatley

Today marks day one of Camp Springs three-day Labor Day bluegrass festival. Cody and Donna Johnson purchased the park, site of the first bluegrass festival in North Carolina back in 1969, and re-opened the grounds (after extensive renovations) on its 50th anniversary in 2019. The outdoor music event is celebrating its fifth year since the park’s restoration with cooler, drier weather, a perfect forecast for attendees, performers, and the promoters.

“I’ve been praying since Memorial Day,” Cody confessed after enduring rain during his first annual Tony Rice Memorial Musicfest earlier this year in May.

The festival kicked off the afternoon with performances by local favorites Drive Time, Just Cauz, and Roxboro Connection, followed by the final Camp Springs performance of The Dukes of Drive, band of retiring banjo boss, Terry Baucom. Tonight’s show closes with an extended set by Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers.

The festival’s emcee Cindy Baucom, wife of the retiring banjoist, shared a little history from the stage.

“He played here on the Labor Day festival with Boone Creek in 1977. Terry was on the stage with Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, Wes Golding, and Steve Bryant. He went on to help form Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, IIIrd Tyme Out, Lou Reid, Terry Baucom & Carolina, Blueridge, and in 2013, he formed his own band the Dukes of Drive. We have Jason Burleson from Blue Highway joining us. (Referencing Terry) The boss man is over there watching you.”

“It’s such an honor filling in for my hero,” stated Burleson. “There were three albums that really made me want to play banjo and Terry was on two of them.”

Dukes bassist, Joe Hannabach, added, “I’ve been with him the last ten years. I’ve never played with someone with his timing, tone, and drive.”

Saturday’s line-up features the Grascals, the Tennessee Plow Cleaners, Starlett & Big John, and an extended evening show by Junior Sisk. Sunday’s schedule begins with a worship service at 11:00 a.m., followed by performances by the Gospel Plowboys, Deeper Shade of Blue, the Edgar Lowdermilk Band, Kenny & Amanda Smith, concluding with a two-hour set by Little Roy & Lizzy. 

“Come out and support the amazing people that put this historic festival on every year. We are so thankful to get to be a part of it, and we give God the glory for it all! We hope to see you there!” stated Michael Jenkins of the Gospel Plowboys.

Camp Springs Blue Grass Park is located at 540 Boone Road, Elon, NC.  For tickets and more information, visit the festival web site, or call Cody Johnson (336-213-1944).

Cindy concluded…

“When Cody Johnson first told me his plans for restoration of Camp Springs, knowing its history, and to be invited to be its MC that first year, and to come back year after year, is really an honor. Cody said from the beginning that he wanted to continue making improvements each year, and he’s kept his word. Every time that I come back to Camp Springs, it just gets more beautiful and it’s making it better for the bands and the audience. I’m really honored to be a small part of it.”

Will Clark, Dukes of Drive mandolinist, echoed a similar sentiment. “So grateful to be here where all my heroes played.”

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.