Crowe Fest launches in Kentucky at the end of August

We all knew it was bound to happen, and so it has come to pass.

A new bluegras festival is launching this summer to honor the music and the memory of the great J.D. Crowe. Dubbed Crowe Fest, its first iteration is scheduled for August 25-27 at the Meadowgreen Bluegrass Music Park in Clay City, KY, not far from where Crowe was from.

Crowe Fest is a joint effort between Rickey Wasson, longtime guitarist and vocalist with Crowe in The New South and the owner of the Meadows Green Park, and veteran festival producer Ernie Evans of Evans Media Source. Wasson and Crowe were more than just musical collaborators, becoming great friends in the process. Rickey released J.D.’s final set of recordings late in 2021, entitled Crowe & Wasson.

Evans tells us that his interest in being involved dates back to the days just after Crowe’s passing on Christmas Eve last year.

“The loss of J.D. Crowe came at a time while the bluegrass industry was going through a paradigm shift. The bluegrass festival industry was making a recovery after a setback from the Covid Delta Variant and the announcement of Doyle Lawson retiring his award winning touring band, Quicksilver, a year earlier than planned.

Shortly after the announcement our industry would be challenged one again with a new strain called the Omicron Variant that would sweep through the 4th quarter of 2021.

Doyle Lawson’s last show was scheduled to take place on The night before New Year’s Eve in Jekyll Island.

We at Evans Media Source had our hands full with a festival, but wanted to make his last performance special. So, we went to work on planning a special evening for Doyle and all of his affiliates that he had worked with throughout his career as Quicksilver.

To make it extra special, I spoke to a great mutual friend, Tim Dillman, about what we could do. Tim is a very innovative thinker and we soon came up with a plan to invite Doyle’s two best friends in the world, Paul Williams and J.D. Crowe, to surprise him when he showed up.

Tim called with great news saying that Paul was in, and that he was talking to close acquaintance Rickey Wasson, former member of JD Crowe & The New South and personal friend of J.D.

Rickey had informed Tim that J.D. was not feeling good and that his health was not the best. So, we waited and checked in from time to time but his health never improved. Sadly, J.D. passed away four days before Doyle’s last performance.

In fact, the funeral was scheduled on the same day Doyle was to do his last performance.”

Though Ernie doesn’t mention it, that final show – heavily promoted and awaited as such – nearly didn’t occur. Doyle was asked to serve as one of Crowe’s pallbearers, an honor he wouldn’t have missed for the world for his great friend. Lawson was already in Georgia for the concert, and a great many obstacles had to be overcome in order for him to do both.

Evans continues…

“Fast forwarding past many details that in short allowed Doyle, Paul, and Tim Dillman to fly to Lexington from Jekyll Island, then return and do his show…

This whole experience created a very strong friendship between all of us and even if none of this happened, J.D.’s music had touched us all, and he had been a hero of mine since teenage-hood.

Tim, Ricky, and I wanted to put a first class event on in honor of the legacy J.D. has left the bluegrass world. It is all coming together so fast and will be here before you know it. We had talked about launching it in 2023 but the demand was so strong once the word got out that we made the decision to launch this year.

Crowe Fest will be an annual 3 day event centered around special reunion performances by former New South members, as well as today’s top touring bluegrass artists on the birthday week of JD Crowe. The reunion performances will be led by Rickey Wasson.

Also appearing will be special performances by Doyle Lawson, Paul Williams, Sideline, Terry Baucom’s Dukes of Drive, Authentic Unlimited, Ralph Stanley II & The Clinch Mountain Boys, Mo Pitney, Darren Wasson Band, and more.

There will be vendors on site, camping, and an indoor stage if rain were to happen.

There will also be a chance for folks to participate in a fundraising event that allows them some stage time playing the world famous “Banger,” the banjo used on popular recordings by J.D. himself.

This will be a festival like no other and that’s a promise. Tim, Rickey, and myself along with the blessing of the Crowe Family are putting our hearts into this event, and leveraging all we have learned throughout the years to make this experience something special, and something J.D. would be proud of.

Festival tickets are available now online for $65, with single day passes also available. Full service RV sites are limited, and can be reserved by calling 606-945-5999. Additional sites with electrical service are available, as well as rough camping on site.

What better way to celebrate J.D. Crowe’s birthday as well as his music!

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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.