Kentucky is a beautiful state of rolling hills and pastureland that was originally part of Virginia, becoming the 15th state to join the Union in 1792. The name “Kentucky” means “meadow lands” in several Indian languages, and its nickname is the “Bluegrass State” based on the extensive fields of Poa pratensis, commonly called Bluegrass, that cover many fields in the northern part of the state.
Farmers in the 1800’s noticed that horses in the area known as the Bluegrass Region seemed heartier than others, presumably because of the high calcium content in the soil. Thoroughbred horse breeding developed as one of the states prominent industries and continues today.
The area is also well known as a center for Bluegrass music. The term “Bluegrass Music” is believed to have derived its name from the Blue Grass Boys, a band formed in 1939 by Bill Munroe, often considered the “father of Bluegrass Music”. The Blue Grass Boys featured banjo prodigy Earl Scruggs and guitarist/song writer Lester Flatt, and the group laid much of the groundwork to make this form of music widely popular outside the hills of Appalachia where it evolved.
This past week Carrie and I parked Sanctuary at the campground adjoining the Kentucky Horse Park outside of Lexington, KY. During the week we visited the Horse Park and saw some beautiful Thoroughbreds and the grounds where they are raised, enormous horse farms surrounding palatial mansions, and enjoyed 3 days of terrific Bluegrass music at the 42nd annual Festival of the Bluegrass.
The festival was begun in 1974 by Jim and Jean Colbert and has been continued by their family ever since. Jean Colbert passed away this past February and the younger members of the family paid her a very heartfelt tribute remembering her devotion both to them and the festival. We met people who have returned to the festival for years and enjoyed a wonderful, family-oriented event of music workshops, impromptu jam sessions and performances by some of Bluegrass music’s finest performers, as well as some outstanding newcomers.
We got there early expecting a free-for-all of finding a spot for primitive camping in the campground fields because all of the RV sites are reserved years in advance. What we found was an easy going collection of campers and musicians who have respectfully shared the camping grounds and the music with one another for many years. On the day before the festival began after the stage was erected we discovered that people stake out the spots for their chairs in orderly rows in front of the stage, so we hurriedly grabbed our chairs and planted them in our “reserved” spot for the weekend’s performances, and that other attendees kindly left them alone for the 3-day event.
There were performances by some big names in the Bluegrass music world: Seldom Scene, Lonesome River Band, Adkins and Loudermilk, and several others. There were also short performances by the young kids that attended the Bluegrass workshop, an Open Stage portion for those brave souls who wanted to perform on a real stage, and even a group of Bluegrass enthusiasts from Japan called the Tanzawa Bluegrass Circle who played and sang traditional Bluegrass songs in both English and Japanese.
Besides the great music we met plenty of friendly folks, Carrie enjoyed some time catching up with one of her good friends from our Annapolis days, and we even met up with a couple of RVers whom Carrie “friended” on Facebook and said they were also coming to the Festival. This couple has circumnavigated the globe on their sailboat and has now traveled the US extensively for several years towing their 5th Wheel. Ya gotta love that Internet.
We chose to forego the Sunday morning gospel performances to scoot out of the park early before the deluge of RV’s returning home, heading up the road (down the road?) for the Ohio River Valley to visit with some old sailing friends who are now dirt dwellers. Chalk up another great experience for our RVing adventure.