Labor Day Bluegrass Festival returns to Camp Springs in 2019

Fiddler’s Roll Call at the 1971 Camps Springs Blue Grass festival – photo by Tom Isenhour

The property has been obtained, cleanup has begun, and the new owners of Carlton Haney’s old Blue Grass Park in Camp Springs, NC are planning to relaunch the historic Labor Day weekend Blue Grass festival on it’s Golden Anniversary in 2019.

It was in August 1969 that Haney moved what he called his Original Blue Grass Festival to Camp Springs from its initial location just north of Roanoke, VA. His claim that these were the first multi-day, outdoor, weekend events with live bluegrass music remains unchallenged, and what he started nearly 50 years ago is now a central component of how the music enjoyed in the 21st century.

Cody Johnson recalls the festival when he was a boy, as his family lived just down the road from the park. His dad helped park cars during the festival there, and appeared in the Bluegrass Country Soul film that documented the 1972 festival. It was a major part of his childhood summer memories, so he was delighted when he and his wife, Donna, were able to purchase the site on which it was held so many years ago.

Working with the Camp Springs Music Foundation, a local charitable organization dedicated to the festival’s return, Cody and Donna feel like they can see bluegrass performed there on the site next year.

“We have watched it waste away for a long time and feel really blessed to be able to buy it and return it to what it once was. It’s going to take some time but with hard work and prayers, but I’m confident we can have a festival here next Labor Day weekend 2019 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first festival.”

Already they have begun clearing the undergrowth that had taken over the stage and seating areas, and are now determining which of the old buildings at the old campground are salvageable.

The Foundation has been raising money this past few years with this goal in sight, though previous attempts to purchase the property had been unsuccessful. The Johnsons plan to operate the park as a multi-genre music facility during the summer months, culminating each season with the big Labor Day Blue Grass Festival.

Camp Springs Music Foundation President Becky Johnson (no relation) says that they have longed for this eventuality for some time, and are overwhelmed to see it so close to reality.

“All of us would love to make it come back on Labor Day weekend 2019 as at least a one-day event. That is a lot of work to do in 12 months, but we’ll give it our best shot. If not, we’ll start the second half-century in 2020. Either way, this is a dream come true.”

Becky and her husband, Art Menius, will soon announce a major crowdfunding campaign to help raise money to take care of site preparation and repair at the park. Until then, donations can be made via PayPal at the Foundation web site.

What wonderful news to see such an important piece of bluegrass history reclaimed and returned to its intended purpose!

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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.