Bob Cornett, a leader in bluegrass festival management in the eastern United States died on April 11. He was 89 years of age.
Cornett and his family launched a number on festivals that are still in operation. In 1974 he and his wife, Jean, started The Festival of the Bluegrass in Lexington, KY. Then in 1985 they opened and developed the Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park and Campground near Live Oak, FL. The initial impetus for the park was to host bluegrass festivals, but it has since grown to also hold festivals throughout the year in a wide variety of musical styles. During the warm weather months, there are typically concerts two or more days each week in the park.
In the midst of all that, Suwanee has a bluegrass/Americana festival each spring and fall to this day. Bob and Jean’s children and grandchildren still manage and operate the park, and the festival in Lexington.
Both events have been recognized for helping elevate the bluegrass festival experience from muddy fields to clean facilities with professional staging, audio, and lighting. The Cornetts’ offering children activities during festival weekends has also found itself a standard component of such festivals around the country.
Bob’s son Charles shared these thoughts last week about how his parents developed their concept for event management.
“From the very beginning, Dad took the idea that festivals weren’t really about musicians, but instead the sharing of music and family. He and Mom observed how people would buy tickets, but be so absorbed in the music in the campground that they never attended a stage show. They watched multi-generational families make attending a festival an annual event, and build a family gathering around it. Soon kids of kids, and their kids, and so on came to count the Spirit of the Suwannee as a second home that they looked forward to returning to year after year.”
A funeral was held yesterday for Bob Cornett in Georgetown, KY, on April 15, and he was interred next to his wife who had passed in 2015.
R.I.P., Bob Cornett.