Jean Cornett, who co-founded the Festival of the Bluegrass with her husband Bob, died Friday morning. She was 86.
"She was the most remarkable woman I have ever known," said Roy Cornett, Jean's grandson, who now directs the festival with his wife, AnnaMarie.
Cornett said that AnnaMarie Cornett had written on the festival's Facebook page, "Now she will watch over her festival from a place of honor in heaven." He said, "That's true, because it really was her festival, and it will always be her festival."
The festival was founded in 1974 when, according to the festival website, Bob Cornett looked out over the area that is now the campground for the Kentucky Horse Park and thought it would be a great site for a bluegrass music festival.
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The first festival was held there, with the back of a truck as a stage, and has continued every year since, now attracting thousands of fans to the Horse Park campground every June. The 40th edition of the festival in 2013 was streamed live by KET and drew large audiences in Japan and other countries.
Roy Cornett says he has been to the festival every year since he was born. His enduring image of his grandmother is of her "sitting there in the chair at the silver Airstream office and person after person after person coming up and wanting to shake her hand and tell her how much they appreciate her."
Tom Martin, president of the Lexington Area Music Alliance and emcee of the festival in recent years, said, "Jean was a driving force behind not only the genre of bluegrass music, but also the music's culture. The annual festival has encouraged the growth of a community — a family of families. She was an enormous presence." Martin helped to found the Best of Bluegrass Festival in 2013.
This year's Festival of the Bluegrass is June 11 to 14, and Roy Cornett said, "it will be a celebration of her, her life and the legacy she has created."
Bob and Jean Cornett extended their enterprise to Florida, where they opened the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak. Recently, Jean Cornett had participated in arrangements for the filming of an episode of the DIY network series The Treehouse Guys, which built one of its trademark extreme treehouses in the park.
"Monday, she had an amazing day," Roy Cornett said of his grandmother. "They took her up in a bucket lift overlooking the site, and it was an amazing day, and she just overdid it.
"Later that evening, she started having problems, so they took her to the hospital, and then she died this morning right after 8 o'clock."
Roy Cornett said he and his wife started calling members of the "festival family" in the past few days.
"She always felt that the people that came to that festival were more than customers, they were more than friends, they were family," Roy Cornett said. "And I know they felt the same way."
Jean is survived by her husband, Bob Cornett, sisters Helen Kinkaid and Margaret White, sons Roy, Robert (Linda), John (Barb), James (Robin), Charles (Vicki) and daughter in law, Patty, as well as 22 grandchildren and their spouses and 13 great grandchildren. She is preceded in death by her parents, Oliver Roy Carrithers and Leah Agnes (Wiseman) Carrithers, her brothers Charles and Paul, and her son, Hugh.
Visitation will be held at Tucker, Yocum, and Wilson funeral home, 320 West Main Street in Georgetown, from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday. The funeral will be held at Cardome Center, 800 Cincinnati Road in Georgetown, at noon Thursday. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be sent to Quest Farm, 627 Glass Pike, Georgetown, KY 40324, a home for developmentally disabled adults, or that you purchase a book for your local school library.