This past weekend in Pascoag, RI, a new regional bluegrass organization took flight. The recently formed Rhode Island Bluegrass Music Association (RIBGMA) hosted what they expect will become an annual bluegrass festival, staffed by volunteers and supported by a number of local businesses.
This first event was perhaps humble by the standards of large, multi-day festivals – turnout was just over 200, and entertainment was provided by three area bands. Still, it was a great success as measured by the Board of the new 501(c) organization formed to promote the music and educate the public about bluegrass in Rhode Island and surrounding states.
RIBGMA was incorporated in January 2006, spearheaded by native Rhode Islander Richard Guilbault, to help combat negative stereotypes about the music, and to promote a wider understanding and awareness of this uniquely American musical style. The new organization got a needed boost when The Call, the daily newspaper in Woonsocket, RI, ran a story about them and their festival in mid-March.
They will soon begin publishing a thrice-yearly newsletter, Hooked On Bluegrass, and will report news of both the organization and of bluegrass events in Rhode Island on their web site.
Guilbault is hopeful that this new organization will take root, and establish itself as an engine for supporting bluegrass in RI. He mentioned that another attempt of this sort was made in the 1980s, but the effort foundered. The RIBGMA membership is still small, but Richard urges anyone in the area with an interest in the music to contact them.
Membership is open to anyone with a desire to promote, educate, research, or just to enjoy bluegrass music in any of its many incarnations.