Bluegrass Festivals and Community

In my Bluegrass class this week we focused on Bluegrass festivals and the communities that form among members of the festival audience. On Monday we watched a documentary called Bluegrass Country Soul that showcased Carlton Haney’s 7th annual Labor Day Weekend Bluegrass Festival in Camp Springs, North Carolina and on Wednesday we read Robert Owen Gardner’s “Portable Community” that focused on the communities that form at Bluegrass festivals and why people are drawn to them. In his study, he researches the “ties that bind [the] mobile and transient grouping of individuals” at Bluegrass festivals and “discuss[es] the motives underlying their participation.”


I really enjoyed this section in the class because communities are something that I have always been interested in, especially after coming to Virginia Tech. I am from a small town where everybody knows everybody and the sense of community is very strong. When I came to Virginia Tech, I was afraid that this sense of community would be lost because of the large size of VT. However, I feel that I have found a sense of “portable community” in Blacksburg as Gardner describes.


What Gardner finds is that “members respond to the difficulties of finding community at home by forming networks and bonds that simulate traditional forms of community life. Though temporary and transitory, these communal relations fill a void in their lives.” As I have experienced in Blacksburg, Gardner also states that this type of community “has led [people] to shift their focus from neighborhood or place-based notions of community to specific instances in which individuals feel a sense of place, solidarity, or communion in the company of others.” Although not all Virginia Tech students are from the same place, background, culture, or religion, I believe we are able to find community around something that we all love (Virginia Tech) just as attendees of Bluegrass festivals form community around the music. As I stated in my blog post last week, I think an important aspect of music is its ability to bring people from different places together.




Bluegrass Country Soul documentary

Robert Owen Gardner’s “The Portable Community:  Mobility and Modernization in Bluegrass Festival Life”

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