Best Bluegrass Event of the Year held at the Kentucky Horse Park
Last month Bob Cornett of Scott County walked across the stage of the Nashville Convention Center and accepted the award from the International Bluegrass Music Association for Best Bluegrass Event of the Year for his family's Festival of the Bluegrass, which they have presented for the past 34 years.
The Festival of the Bluegrass joins some pretty illustrious company, Cornett said.
There are about 600 festivals a year. The award used to be Festival of the Year but they changed it a few years ago to Bluegrass Event of the Year. A few years back that movie 'O Brother Where Art Thou?' won it. The Cornetts' Festival of the Bluegrass debuted in 1974, but its roots run a little farther back, Cornett said.
He and his wife Jean moved to Georgetown from Hazard in 1968 when he took the job as state budget director in the Combs-Breathitt administration.
Festivals were pretty new in those days. We went to some and we could see that they were not really that well run from a logistics point of view. The stages were hay wagons and the bathrooms, well, they weren't too clean. We decided to put one on that would correct the mistakes of others.
Their first one was held at Walnut Hall Farm, which eventually became the Kentucky Horse Park. Raymond McClain of the McClain Family Singers from Berea came up with the name.
The festival conducts a children's camp in the days preceding the festival. The children attend camp on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On opening night, Thursday night, they are the opening act for the festival, showing what they have learned.
Although the Festival of the Bluegrass is the biggest bluegrass festival in the state, it's not the biggest in the country, Cornett said.
But we have music as it originated in Kentucky, and other festivals don't have that, he said. We have traditional culture including Kentucky culture and mountain culture.
That mountain connection is cemented through the festival's association with Dr. Faye King of Powell County, who founded the Wise Family Pickers and who leads the annual teachers' workshop that accompanies the festival.
It (the mountain connection) is a big part of the festival, Cornett said.
So is the family aspect, and that includes more than the spectators. The entire Cornett family is deeply involved with the nuts and bolts of the annual event.
My wife Jean and I had six sons, Cornett said. Hugh is deceased - he died in an automobile accident - but the other boys, Roy, Robert, John, James and Charles, and their families all work the festival. We've got 16 grandchildren that are involved and five great-grandchildren who are just barely getting into it now. James and Charles live in Florida but they come back every year to help.
Encouraging the fans to set up chairs, playing in impromptu jam sessions, mingling and socializing and having picnics while they watch the shows is part of the unique charm of the festival, Cornett said.
Putting on a bluegrass festival is a year-round job, he said.
Excerpted from an article by JEFF KERR
11/2/07, Georgetown News Graphic