Festival of the Bluegrass unites with BOB

Best Of BluegrassThe popular Lexington, KY event, Festival of the Bluegrass held during June each year, is now partnering with a number of local civic and business entities in a major expansion and rebranding for 2013 and beyond. Though the festival itself will continue to function as a privately-produced event at the Kentucky Horse Park, it will henceforth serve as the anchor for a week-long celebration in Lexington billed as Best Of Bluegrass.

Clubs, restaurants and regional radio, publishing and entertainment groups will be involved, as will Lextran, Lexington’s regional transportation authority who will be offering trolley service from the Horse Park back into downtown during BOB week. Happenings in town are being organized by the Lexington Area Music Alliance (LAMA).

Municipal officials and civic leaders have been discussing such a city-wide music event for several years, and the state tourism office has been aggressively promoting Kentucky as a visitor destination with the bluegrass angle in mind. Festival of the Bluegrass is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year, and it seemed like the right time to build it up, and out.

The idea is to connect existing Lexington-area music venues under a single promotional umbrella, with the goal of convincing regular festival attendees to come early and spend more time in town to sample the city’s home-grown music scene. Likewise, they expect that the trolley service will both entice more locals to spend some time out at the Horse Park, and festival-goers to take the trip downtown to enjoy the restaurants and shopping in Lexington proper.

A side goal, as expressed by Tom Martin, President of LAMA, is to set Lexington up as a recognized center for bluegrass music, and eventually lure the IBMA’s World of Bluegrass convention, awards show, and Fan Fest to town.

The festival runs from Thursday, June 6 through Sunday, the 9th, but BOB kicks off that Monday evening with a special edition of the Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour, a widely-syndicated radio and television program that tapes on Mondays. Tuesday will see a Best Of Bluegrass-themed Southland Jamboree, a weekly free concert held downtown during the summer months, and a live taping of Red Barn Radio, another syndicated program that features acoustic music, on Wednesday.

A list of other agencies and organizations participating in BOB include Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau, Smiley Pete Publishing, Cornett IMS, Lexington Fayette Urban County Government, Natasha’s Bar & Bistro, the Lexington Police Department, and the Downtown Lexington Corporation. It is expected that more music venues and local eateries will join the official roster before things kick off this summer.

With many event promoters struggling with declining attendance and dwindling corporate sponsorship dollars, it looks like the folks in Lexington have found a new path forward where everyone wins.

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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.