The Southland Jamboree, one of the only regular venues for bluegrass music in Lexington, has been canceled for this summer.
In a statement posted on the event's Facebook Page, organizer Billy Sherrow wrote, "I regret to announce that the Southland Jamboree will be unable to continue for the 2018 season due to lack of funding. As most of you are aware, the Jamboree, has been sponsored by the Southland Association and has always been free to the public."
A clue as to what happened was probably in a previous post to the page.
"Our sponsorships for the 2017 were down significantly and, while we had a reserve from prior years and finished out the season okay, the prior funding methods aren’t sustainable for the future," the May 2 post stated. "We are looking at other funding, especially one or more large donors to ease our finances for the 2018 season. Our initial inquiries into this seemed promising but don't seem to be happening. We are a very limited volunteer organization."
It continued, "We especially need the guarantee of a business or other entity interested in a larger donation for sponsorship."
The Southland Jamboree started as a weekly concert in a grassy field next to Collins Bowling Center on Southland Drive. Acts played on a stage built from donated wood and fans brought lawn chairs and blankets to listen. The lineup was primarily local and regional acts, but there were some major names like Dale Ann Bradley and Michael Cleveland who made a point of playing each year.
"We love it," Bradley said in a 2013 interview before a Southland show. "It's one of our favorite places to play every year — a bluegrass show in a field next to a bowling alley. It's perfect, and this is a crowd that really knows their music."
Often, the evenings ended in impromptu jam sessions among folks in the audience, with members of the bands that had just played often joining in.
In a 2013 Herald-Leader story, Sherrow and co-organizer Phil Wyant said the annual budget for the Jamboree was $10,000 to $12,000, drawn from donations, sponsorships, concessions, and a modest contribution from the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.
In 2015, due to construction at the bowling center, the Jamboree had to look for a new temporary home. Failing to find another place in the Southland neighborhood, the event moved to the MoonDance at Midnight Pass Amphitheatre in the Beaumont area. That is where it has operated the past three summers.
In his post and subsequent comments, Sherrow emphasized that the location was not the problem, saying the city Department of Parks and Recreation had been supportive and generous to the Jamboree. Some commenters did say they believed the move from Southland had hurt the event.
The statement did leave open the possibility of reviving the Jamboree in coming years, but funding would be needed.