The Festival of the Bluegrass

The Festival of the Bluegrass

The Festival of the Bluegrass

Surprisingly enough, the longest-running bluegrass festival in Kentucky hadn’t been started by a professional bluegrass band or even an organization. In June 1974, Bob and Jean Cornett, a bluegrass-loving couple who liked to listen to J.D. Crowe perform at the Martins, a North Lexington joint, decided to start their own festival by renting space from the park across Bob Cornett’s workplace. It would be a festival that had everything they liked – mainly, great campgrounds, great camaraderie among listeners, and equally great bluegrass music – and nothing of what they disliked such as overflowing trash and ill-kept toilets.

The name of the festival was coined by Raymond McLain, patriarchal head of the McLain Family Band. It was an apt name, according to McLain, considering that Kentucky was the homeland of bluegrass music.

Soon after, state government construction required the festival to relocate to Masterson Station Park, which was the site of many a fun festival until the Cornett family once again required a change of scenery in 1989. Masterson Station Park had a nice location and just as nice facilities, but it wasn’t enough to accommodate the camping needs of the increasingly large crowd of festival patrons.

The festival’s homecoming at the Horse Park had initially been beset by problems and resulted into dwindling attendance but now, the Festival of the Bluegrass is more popular than ever. In recent years, the Cornett family has opened its doors even days before the actual start of the festival to give eager and enthusiastic campers more time to get to know each other and enjoy other festival activities such as the perennially anticipated music camp. At times, the Cornett family even hosts a pot luck night that early bird campers are encouraged to attend.

While there is ample space available for primitive campsites, the festival only offers limited slots for electrical and water hookups. Interested parties may contact the festival organizers about reservations and deposit requirements.

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