The Sixth Annual Kentucky Lake Bluegrass Festival will take place at the Kenlake State Resort Park in Aurora, KY on June 13 & 14, 2008. Arriving at that announcement was no small undertaking though. As Tony shared the story with me, I realized this is a story that bluegrass fans needed to hear. Here is the story as Tony related it to me.
The Kentucky Lake festival is produced by a group of dedicated bluegrass fans who call themselves The Jackson Purchase Friends of Bluegrass (JPFB). After the close of the Kentucky Lake Bluegrass Festival in 2007, The members of The Jackson Purchase Friends of Bluegrass were devastated by the news that the primary underwriter for this five year old and struggling festival was being unexpectedly dropped from the budget of the Marshall County Tourist Commission, in order to initiate and fund four new fishing tournaments. While some members of the group are fishing fans, they are all friends of bluegrass in a much bigger way. These members decided to roll up their sleeves and get to work looking for a firm, or firms, to replace the $20,000.00 budget that had so suddenly been pulled from their Bluegrass Association. Many companies and organizations were contacted and asked to come onboard with the JPFOB to sponsor and continue this festival which is held in what many people think is the prettiest festival location in all of Kentucky. JPFOB President Tony Williams and Vice President Ron Barnett came to IBMA on the first of October and set up the Kentucky Lake Bluegrass Festival Booth as they had done for several years, but 2007 was different because they had no flyers to pass out and no line-up to brag about to the people that visited the booth.
We were the loneliest guys in the business conference, as folks asked who we were going to have at our 2008 event, and we had to tell them we were not sure we would have a 2008 KLBF. The tentative line up that the tourist commission had approved and told the JPFOB to proceed scheduling with began to pull out one by one until one of our favorites, The James King Band, was the only national act that had not pulled out because we were unable to give them contracts due to the lack of financial means to continue the Festival.
At the conclusion of IBMA 2007, Tony and Ron left the "World of Bluegrass" just as they had arrived, with zero dollars committed to their cause. The regular monthly First Friday Bluegrass Gathering was a very somber place on November 3, 2007, when the association’s President and Vice President told the membership of their failure to find another primary underwriter for the festival. In the business meeting held that evening the officers and directors asked for suggestions from the membership for continuing the festival and by a majority vote it was decided that the members would continue searching for sponsorship by going to as many smaller western Kentucky businesses as needed to get the festival funded for at least one more year, which would allow the organization twelve additional months to try to find an appropriate primary underwriter.
Fortunately, some of the original sponsors who had been involved with the festival since it’s beginning in 2003, had decided to stay on as sponsors, including GHS Strings, First Quality Music, and Deering Banjo Company. Tony, Ron, the other officers and all the JPFOB Board of Directors then began going from one small business to another, explaining their delima, and asking for support, until on March 1st the Jackson Purchase friends of Bluegrass proudly announced that the sixth annual Kentucky Lake Bluegrass Festival, would again be held at the beautiful Kenlake State Resort Park amphitheater overlooking Kentucky Lake with a view of the pristine wilderness of the "Land Between Lakes" on Friday and Saturday June 13 and 14.
The line up for this year’s festival will feature "The James King Band," "The Josh Williams Band", "Cindy and Terry Baucom", some still unannounced but very impressive plans for an All-Star Jam Session on each of the nights of the Festival, plus appearances by "The McKendrees," "Old Santa Fe", Maine’s "Mueller Family" "The Ridge Runners" and more yet to be announced
The Festival board has now received word that one major Bluegrass band, is announcing from stage that the Kentucky Lake Bluegrass festival is history due to bankruptcy. This information is simply incorrect and served as the catalyst for Tony’s sharing this story with me.
The festival website is undergoing an overhaul to reflect the new information and should be operational by April 1, 2008. In the meantime, if you would like more information about the festival, send an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org and more details will be sent to you by reply email.
I’ll leave you with this statement from Tony, who serves as both President of the Jackson Purchase friends of Bluegrass, and Producer of the Kentucky Lake Bluegrass festival:
Fortunately for the music, these hard headed western Kentucky folks were not willing to give up this great festival just because some people pulled the funding. I am so proud of the members of our association for working so tirelessly to give us a chance to continue the only festival in far western Kentucky dedicated to the celebration of the only true art form that Kentucky has given the world. God bless them all!