We heard today from Becky Johnson with the Camp Springs Music Foundation in North Carolina. These are the folks who have been attempting to purchase the old campground and site for the legendary Camp Springs festivals once hosted by Carlton Haney and his brother Charles.
Their plan had been to obtain the property from Charles’ estate and restore the stage area and campground, with an eye towards restarting the festival in time for its 50th anniversary in 2019.
Younger folks won’t recall a time before there were bluegrass festivals every weekend all over the country, but until the Haneys got things started in the mid-’60s, that was the situation. Many bluegrass historians have suggested that it was the festival craze they launched that saved our music, which was suffering at the time. Rock and roll was ascendant in the ’60s, with bluegrass finding very little airplay on the radio, and few ways for people to hear it.
Carlton held his first two outdoor, multi-day festivals in Virginia on a farm in Fincastle, near Roanoke, and then moved them to Berryville in northern Virginia for the next two years. From there, he and his brother ran the events at Bluegrass Park in Camp Springs, NC close to Reidsville. As Carlton’s health began to deteriorate, the property fell into disrepair and the old stage that hosted so many bluegrass stars began to fall apart.
But now Becky tells us that Charles Haney’s family has decided to sell the property to a developer at well above its assessed value, putting it beyond the reach of the Foundation. Unless they can raise roughly $150,000 in a few days time, their efforts will have been for naught.
Johnson understands that finding that kind of money in short order is unlikely, and is resigned to seeing this piece of bluegrass history turned into contemporary housing tracts. But if anyone has that kind of money sitting around in easy-to-count stacks, ready to donate, please get in touch with her.
For now, she is mostly hoping she can get in one last time and grab some artifacts.
“I am very saddened and disappointed at this turn of events. But I can’t blame them for getting as much as they could. It was a huge headache/tax burden they are happy to be rid of. I am going to ask the owners if they would let me go back one last time to retrieve anything of historic value from the site before it is bulldozed by the new owners.”
It was a great idea, and would have been a fine thing to see and hear bluegrass again at Camp Springs. But it seems it wasn’t to be.
Well done, Becky, all the same.