2020 has been a devastating year for bluegrass festivals, entertainers, and promoters, just to mention a few in the industry. With COVID-19 taking its toll on our great music, deep in southern Ohio, on the edge of Appalachia, Pike County was spared the brunt of the effects. With the cooperation of Pike County Health Commissioner, Sammy Karr and Rick Greene were able to pull off SamJam 2020 with all restrictions in place.
Any live music event is a gamble for a promoter, especially during a nationwide pandemic, but SamJam saw an unexpected and record turnout. For those that were leery of venturing out, Ernie Evans and his crew at Evans Media Source offered live streaming to the entire world, and hundreds of people took advantage to watch this great festival happen online.
Wednesday offered early arrivers a chance to hear some music at local venues throughout Piketon and Waverly. The SamJam Hop offered music at the Lake White Club featuring 7 Mile Bluegrass, the Waverly American Legion had Heather Alley and Mountain Time, the Waverly Eagles featured Lacey Creek, and to end the night Richie’s Restaurant had entertainment from Nathan and Chesi Arnett.
Thursday was the kickoff to the festival and groups for the day were the Coal Cave Hollow Boys, Billy Droze and Kentucky Blue, Boone and Foster, The Junior Sisk Band, and The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys.
Friday’s entertainment was Shannon Slaughter and County Clare, Turning Ground, Seldom Scene, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, and Balsam Range. A highlight for everyone attending on Friday was to get a look at Doyle’s brand new band, and trust me they did not disappoint!
Saturday saw Caney Creek, The Tim Shelton Syndicate, Sideline, the return of The Steeldrivers to SamJam, and The Cleverleys.
Sunday was the closing day and entertainment was the Caleb Daugherty Band, the Grascals with Jamie Johnson, Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, an All Star Jam featuring Sideline, and the SamJam after party.
Brand new this year at the festival featured a large LED screen next to the stage. One of the festivals corporate sponsors, Budweiser, had a large beer tent and offered folks Budweiser products for $1. Due to COVID, the Kentucky Derby had been postponed until labor day weekend, and large TV screens had the Derby under the Budweiser tent for everyone to view. Sideline’s entrance on Saturday to their time slot was also a classic. They were brought in on an old flatbed pickup truck with a Pike County sheriff leading the way.
SamJam is a festival you will not want to miss next year. It is quickly becoming one of the largest, most well-respected festivals in the country. For more information you can like their Facebook page, or visit them online.
Photos courtesy of Paula Hinton.