Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Celebration ’06!
I can’t find adequate words to describe the aura that surrounded this wonderful event! Taking place on “Ground Zero” for bluegrass music, the birthplace of Bill Monroe, the Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Celebration is fast becoming “THE” bluegrass festival of the 21st century! I am quite certain that Bill Monroe would be extremely proud of what this event has grown to be, in the short 5 years that it has been in existence. With the tireless work of Julie and Campbell Mercer and all the folks associated with the Monroe Foundation, the future of bluegrass music, as it’s creator Bill Monroe envisioned it, is on solid ground!
For folks that haven’t attended the event yet (and you are quickly becoming the minority!), the main stage is situated just a stone’s throw away from the back of the Monroe homeplace. Under the direction of the Monroe Foundation, the house was completely restored to it’s original condition and appearance and opened to the public in 2001. Tours are offered to the public and many people feel there is a spirituality that permeates the dwelling, after taking one of the guided tours. It is quite easy to imagine Uncle Pen sitting next to the fireplace, filling the room with the sounds of his old-time fiddle and planting the seeds in the mind of the young Bill Monroe that would later grow to create what we know today as bluegrass!
What a difference TV makes! Since the RFD-TV channel started carrying The Cumberland Highlanders’ (the band that Campbell Mercer heads up, along with ex-Blue Grass Boy, Wayne Lewis) show, the Bill Monroe homeplace, Rosine, Kentucky and the Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Celebration have been seen by countless numbers of people, worldwide! Attendance to the festival, for the past couple of years would certainly bear this out. Campbell Mercer estimates that about 9000 people came through the gates during the 4-day event this year! That was a growth of 82% over the 2005 festival attendance, which in turn grew by 80% over the 2004 attendance! An informal poll of the audience was conducted by the Monroe Foundation and it was determined that 95% of the attendees were there because they had seen The Cumberland Highlanders’ TV show on the RFD-TV channel! It certainly seems that the partnership between RFD-TV, the Monroe Foundation and the bluegrass industry, is paying big dividends for all involved!
There has been much discussion recently about bluegrass music and the direction that it has taken. It would seem that, in some ways, bluegrass music has followed the same path as country music. The mere definition of bluegrass is more blurred now than ever before. For those folks who might feel that bluegrass music, at least the kind that we grew up on, is dead or maybe is no longer “in”, I urge you to attend the Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Celebration! This festival is quickly becoming the “mecca” of bluegrass music that sounds like the music we grew up on and love! Whether the bands are considered professionals (Ralph Stanley, Larry Sparks) or more locally famous (Larry Fuller, Tommy Brown), each one leaves no doubt in the minds of the audience about what kind of music is being performed. And quite often the audience gets to see combinations of musicians, (some pro, some not, some old, some young, some locals and some from foreign countries) perform together in impromptu jams on stage, all with a reverance for the music called bluegrass and in honor of Bill Monroe! It is something that cannot be adequately described, it has to be experienced!
If the last three years are any indication of what the future holds for the Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Celebration, the 2007 festival may leap to the forefront of being one of the largest bluegrass festivals in the entire country! With the unbelievable success of the RFD-TV channel and the fact that it has become a conduit for exposing folks to bluegrass music for the first time (via The Cumberland Highlanders’ show), I feel confident that this great event, and the bluegrass genre itself are poised for a growth burst like has never been experienced before! I know I’ll be there next year and I sure hope you will too!