This year, Kentucky for Kentucky is highlighting the Festival of the Bluegrass, an event that we’re excited to be a part of as they celebrate over 40 years of bringing the world to our fine Commonwealth to celebrate our bluegrass heritage. The Festival began as a family affair – “the longest family-run Bluegrass Festival in the country” – and continues to be just that. In 1974, inspired by the music they’d grown to love at Martin’s on North Limestone, Bob and Jean Cornett held the first festival on Walnut Hill Farm, a plot of land that was later incorporated into the Kentucky Horse Park. The Festival temporarily moved to Masterson Station Park; since 1991, however, the event has been held at the Horse Park, where bluegrass enthusiasts will converge on the Lexington area again this year from June 12th through 15th.
Though Bob and Jean continue to be involved with the Festival, it has been passed down to Roy, their eldest grandson and his wife, AnnaMarie, who are prepared to build on the event for the next generation. When asked about their family-based philosophy for the event, AnnaMarie explained, “we look at it as though we’re throwing a killer party for 10,000 of our closest friends.” These friends come from all over the world, often setting up camp one to two weeks prior to the Festival in order to build their communities. Last year, they had attendees from six countries (not including the United States) and 36 states. As AnnaMarie told us, “The Festival of the Bluegrass is the great equalizer. When you’re out there, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a coal miner or a UK professor; you are there to enjoy friends, family, music, and the beautiful state of Kentucky.”
With a spectacular lineup ahead of them that, as usual, includes many Bluegrass greats, AnnaMarie and Rob are most excited about their “partnership with the greater Lexington community.” Building identity and expanding community relationships means recognizing that “we all have the common goal of celebrating the history and spirit of Central Kentucky.” This year, they have partnered with the Lexington Area Music Alliance, VisitLex, and the mayor’s office, which means that, for this year’s event, Best of Bluegrass, a non-profit Festival, will be offering free concerts throughout downtown Lexington while LexTran will run shuttles ($1 each way) back and forth between down town and the Festival. All of this, as AnnaMarie explains, “means that even more people will get to see what we love about our city.”
Fittingly, the family’s favorite aspect of the Festival of the Bluegrass is celebrating the culture and heritage of our state. “There is a great richness to the people and the land of Kentucky. The traditions that grew up in Eastern Kentucky hollers and the sounds that were made on front porches, shucking corn and stringing beans, is a culture that deserves to be recognized and honored.”
Learn more about the Festival of the Bluegrass here – and keep an eye out for an upcoming ticket giveaway!