Chet Kingery Memorial Bluegrass Festival returns to Shelbyville, IL

A popular bluegrass festival, honoring a special member of the community, is set to return this year to central Illinois.

The Chet Kingery Memorial Bluegrass Festival had its debut run in May of 2013 in Arcola, IL, named in honor of a then recently deceased artist from the region, Chet Kingery, who performed for years with his group, the Knights of Bluegrass. Chet passed away in 1998, and the members of the band, Mackville, in Atwood, IL, launched the festival to keep his name before people who loved the music.

As the Kingery festival grew they moved twice in subsequent years to new locations, including the Moultrie Douglas County Fairgrounds and The Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur, IL, but after being shut down by COVID restrictions in 2020, the band dissolved the festival.

They have now elected to start it back up after finding a suitable new location, the historic Chautauqua Auditorium in Forest Park, in nearby Shelbyville, IL. This unique structure, the largest icosagonal, or 20-sided, structure in the world, was built in 1903, and very nearly destroyed in 2009 when the city threatened to tear it down unless intensive structural repairs could be made. Fortunately, a Chautauqua Auditorium Preservation Committee was formed, and a local resolution found 60% of residents in favor of reconstruction. The close to $2 million required was raised, and the auditorium reopened in 2021.

Because of the icosagonal design, there are no interior support pillars to block the view of the stage, and the members of Mackville decided that it was the perfect place for the festival, with seating for roughly 5,000 people.

The 2024 Chet Kingery Memorial Bluegrass Festival will be held May 10-11, with Mackville serving as the host band. Additional music will be provided by Blue Highway, David Davis & The Warrior River Boys, Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers, Kings Highway, and The Kody Norris Show. The festival will start on Friday evening, with a Saturday filled with workshops while a big stage show with multiple acts runs all day into the evening.

The promoters have also arranged for a special festival cancellation stamp during the weekend, and attendees can either purchase the new bluegrass stamp from USPS personnel on site, or bring stamped items in to receive the cancellation stamp with the Chet Kingery Memorial Bluegrass Festival marking.

Full details on the festival can be found online.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.