New festival hopes to establish Lexington as home of bluegrass music

rcopley@herald-leader.comJanuary 15, 2013 

Lexington officials and musicians announced Tuesday morning that they are pulling together several well-known events in an effort to establish the city as the home of bluegrass music.

Best of Bluegrass will be a four-day event leading up to the annual Festival of the Bluegrass, June 6 to 9 at the Kentucky Horse Park.

The event, nicknamed "BOB," will bring local and regional bluegrass music acts to WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour on June 3, the Southland Jamboree on June 4, Red Barn Radio on June 5 and Thursday Night Live on June 6. It also will use LexTran trolleys to transport visitors already at the Horse Park for the festival to downtown for the events.

"We have people who show up literally at the beginning of the week to grab prime camping spots, and this will be a great chance for them to come downtown and see what else Lexington has to offer," Festival of the Bluegrass director Roy Cornett said.

It will be the 40th edition of the festival, founded by Cornett's grandparents, Bob and Jean Cornett. This year's headliners include Dailey and Vincent, Del McCoury, J.D. Crowe and the Lonesome River Band.

Tom Martin of the Lexington Area Musicians Association said the festival's milestone anniversary made it the perfect time to create a complementary program.

The BOB lineup will concentrate on local and regional artists.

"We got to thinking about what we could do with what we have here in the city to send a message that we're a serious music city," Martin said.

Mayor Jim Gray said, "It seems so natural, the organic nature of this, that we would work to connect the dots that are already established and elevate this in a really remarkable way.

"This is building on a brand that's already established."

In addition to BOB's anchor events, organizers said, other bluegrass music shows will be presented throughout the city during the festival week.

"We're going to cover the town with music," said Art Shechet, co-owner of Natasha's Bistro and Bar, which will host events after WoodSongs and Red Barn Radio. Those radio shows, which originate in Lexington and are broadcast internationally, are keys to getting the word out about the events, Martin said.

"They reach a much larger audience than we can ever reach and relay what's going on here," Martin said.

There are long-term ambitions behind the partnership between Best of Bluegrass and the Festival of the Bluegrass, including possibly bringing the International Bluegrass Music Association's annual convention to Lexington.

"This is about making the city a larger profile in the music world," Cornett said.

Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Twitter: @copiousnotes. Blog: Copiousnotes.bloginky.com.

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