Now in its eighth year, the initial purpose of the J.D. Crowe Bluegrass Festival in Wilmore was obvious: to honor the enormously influential Grammy winning banjoist and bandleader who lives in nearby Nicholasville.
But festival organizer and veteran bluegrass performer Dean Osborne said that in a time of tight budgets and venue closings, the festival’s role couldn’t help but intensify.
“We plan year to year but realize things happen that we can’t control with the economy and the local music scene,” Osborne said. “Our philosophy is always the same. We try to improve the lineup, improve the event by making positive changes and keep the ticket price down.
“But people are having a tough time. I think they would like to know that the folks promoting events realize it might not be as easy for an audience, with gas prices this year, to spend a lot of money. So if people decide to stay home, or at least closer to home, can we provide a quality event where they feel, basically, like they’ve been on vacation? That’s what we’re charged with.”
The festival kicks off tonight with a 6 p.m. jam session followed at 9 by the premiere of A Kentucky Treasure: The J.D. Crowe Story, a documentary on the festival’s namesake artist by Russell Farmer. The film is likely to make the rounds on KET later this fall. Here’s your chance to see it first, under the stars. The screening and jam session are free.
Crowe himself will take over with sets featuring the newest edition of his New South band on Friday and Saturday. Some heavy hitting festival co-headliners will be adding to the fun, as well.
The Grascals, which took Entertainer of the Year honors at the annual International Bluegrass Music Association Awards for the past two years, will perform tonight while another ultra-tasteful banjoist, Sammy Shelor, leads the current lineup of the Lonesome River Band to Wilmore on Saturday.
The extensive Saturday lineup also includes Bobby Osborne and the Rocky Top X-Press, Richard Bennett and Wyatt Rice, Paul Williams and the Victory Trio and more.
Festival gates open at 9 a.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday.
The J.D. Crowe Bluegrass Festival runs tonight through Saturday at Ichthus Farm in Wilmore. Tickets are $25 (Friday), $30 (Saturday) and $45 (full weekend). Free for children 12 and under. Call (859) 858-3001.