Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper
Monroe Memorial Bluegrass Festival 2017
June 10-17, 2017
~by Mark Blackwell, photos by Cindy Steele
Back in nineteen and seventy-two a country-rock outfit called the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band released an album titled “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” This album was a collaboration that featured classic country performers such as Maybelle Carter, Roy Acuff, and Merle Travis pickin’ and singin’ classic country and Bluegrass songs. It also introduced a lot of my generation to veteran Bluegrass musicians Jimmy Martin, Vassar Clements, and Earl Scruggs. One of the highlights of the album was a song by Hylo Brown called “The Grand Ol’ Opry Song.”
In that song the refrain calls out a roster of Grand Ol’ Opry acts: “There will be guitars and fiddles Earl Scruggs and his banjo, too and Bill Monroe singing them old Kentucky blues…” and I remember hearing that and thinking about how important Bluegrass music had been to the “Opry” at one time. Bill and the Bluegrass Boys had a regular segment and so did Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. But not so much these days. It seems like it’s getting hard to get a weekly dose of Bluegrass music. But what you can do is an eight day Bluegrass binge in beautiful Brown County.
Starting Saturday, June 10 and running through Saturday, June 17 the 51st Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Festival will be hosting 70 top-notch Bluegrass acts. This year will feature classic Bluegrass bands such as Bobby Osborne and Rocky Top Express, Jesse McReynolds (of Jim and Jesse fame), the Seldom Scene, and Eddie and Martha Adcock. There will also be old favorites like Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Special Consensus, the Grascals, the Gibson Brothers, IIIrd Tyme Out, Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper, and a whole bunch of other amazing pickers. All-in-all, the festival features 8 to 9 bands on the main stage every day. That is a lot of talent in one place.
But you’re not required to listen to all the bands, nor are you restricted to the main stage area. There is a lot to do at the park. You can hang out in the campground, join one of the pickup bands, or start one of your own. And it is always a good thing to visit the Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Museum. You can see the cabin where Bill Monroe “batched it” with his Uncle Pen and learned the old fiddle tunes that he later worked into classic Bluegrass arrangements. There are also daily music, instrument, and vocal workshops to hone your skills. Or you can eat.
There are always a slew of great vittles purveyors at the park serving up fried green tomatoes, roasted corn on the cob, fish filets, burgers, different kinds of barbeques, and other culinary delicacies. Oh, I almost forgot the kettle corn. I love to munch on the kettle corn while I am watchin’ my favorite bands. And all of the vendors are as friendly as can be. If they just got together and held a food festival I believe that I would be tempted to buy a ticket. But if home-cookin’ is your style you are more than welcome to make your own meals at your camp-site.
And speakin’ of camp-sites, the campgrounds at the park are wooded, beautiful, and offer everything from spacious docks for land yachts, featuring electrical and water hook-ups and dump stations. Or if you are of the younger and hardy persuasion and like to rough it, there are 400+ primitive camp-sites just for you and your tent. Whichever way you like your campin’, there are showers and laundry facilities to keep you feelin’ fresh. And remember, even if you don’t mind skippin’ showers and wearin’ clothes you’ve slept in for a few days, do it for your neighbors…they’ll appreciate your efforts.
With great accommodations, friendly folks, talented performers, a family friendly, and fascinating side attractions, Bean Blossom is the perfect get-away. Whether you stay for a day or the entire week a trip to the Bill Monroe Bean blossom Bluegrass Festival is a unique and unforgettable experience.
Children under 12 get in free when accompanied by an adult. Campsites are a separate but reasonable rate. For more information, tickets, and reservations call (800) 414-4677 or (812) 988-6422 or visit the website at <www.beanblossom.us>.
So, what’s stoppin’ you? Come on over to beautiful downtown Bean Blossom the home of the world’s oldest, continuously operating Bluegrass festival.