Since 2006, free weekly bluegrass concerts have been offered to the public in the Southland neighborhood of Lexington, KY through a joint city and community effort. Organizers say that the Southland Jamboree was launched following a meeting of the members of the Southland Association board with folksinger Michael Jonathan, who hosts the popular Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour there in Lexington. The Association works to build up the neighborhood through cooperation between businesses and residents, and they decided that free bluegrass in the bluegrass was a great idea.
Initially, concerts were held in the parking lot of Collins Bowling alley, with funds for entertainers raised through local sponsors. The shows were immediately popular, and nearby businesses got in the spirit, enticing concertgoers with specials and allowing folks to park in their lots to attend the shows, held once a week from May through September. Things hit a snag in 2015 when construction began on the site formerly used for Southland Jamboree, but organizers were able to find a new home in the Moondance Amphitheater in the Beaumont Center, not far away. Now they had a permanent outdoor stage with plenty of parking, and room for a larger audience to boot.
Bluegrass artists played from around Lexington, and from all over the state and the region, and Monday nights at the Jamboree became a favorite activity not only for Southland residents who could walk to the shows, but for music lovers all across Lexington. Soon, post-concert jamming became a tradition, keeping the music going well after the stage show was completed.
But another roadblock popped up in 2018, when organizers announced that they lacked the funding to continue that season. In true bluegrass fashion, a GoFundMe campaign was started which raised $6,000, enough to keep the shows going that year, and organizers were able to establish the Jamboree as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2019. Concerts then moved to Thursday evenings.
We all know what happened next. 2020 shows were cancelled for COVID restrictions, though the Southland Jamboree was able to ride again in 2021 with a reduced schedule.
But all engines are go for this year, and Beth Tibbitts, President of the Southland Jamboree Association, says that she is in the process of booking acts to perform this summer. Now they bring food trucks in each week so people can have their dinner ahead of the 7:00 p.m. concerts, and still get back home at a prudent mid-week time.
Those in and around Lexington are urged to keep an eye on the Southland Jamboree web site for details about 2022 concerts, which will be posted soon. It’s a great way to hear some quality bluegrass there in town, and to meet other bluegrass fanciers in the area.
As always, donations are graciously accepted to keep the music playing.
Hats off to everyone involved in maintaining this wonderful resource for folks in Lexington!