Bluegrass lovers in the northeastern US have been mourning the demise of the big Joe Val Bluegrass Festival, held this past 15 years at the Sheraton Hotel in Framingham, MA. Managed by the Boston Bluegrass Union, and dedicated to the memory of the region’s premier bluegrass star, the festival has not been hosted since February 2020.
The Sheraton then started a major renovation, and while they planned to remain open throughout, the number of guest rooms that would be available was greatly reduced. So after COVID restrictions were lifted, BBU was without a home for the festival that could accommodate their needs. Even at full capacity, the Sheraton was booked full for every Joe Val event.
But good news may be on the horizon for grassers in the greater Boston region, and the northeastern states in general.
BBU has announced a new event in 2024 called JamVal, a three-day “non festival” to be held at the Framingham Sheraton over the President’s Day weekend, February 16-18. The focus will be on jamming, with no big stage show, but with plenty of workshops hosted by the members of Special Consensus and other professional players, plus the ever popular band scramble competition.
As before, only people with tickets to attend JamVal will be able to book rooms at the hotel that weekend, and there are discounted ticket prices for students and young people. Jamming and non-jamming areas will be clearly delineated, but most all of the public areas of the first floor will be wide open for non-stop, around-the-clock picking.
BBU is looking at this as not only a nice mid-winter break for grassers in need of a music fix, but also as a trial run for a possible return of the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival in 2025!
The large Sheraton complex has new ownership, and they have split into three hotels, with the renovated Sheraton out front, and the other buildings now running as a Fairfield Inn and TownePlace Suites. It is expected that all refurbishing will be completed by 2025, and the three hotels together can offer the same number of rooms as before.
Boston grassers, you can jam in ’24, with a return of Joe Val (fingers crossed) in ’25.