Fincastle 1966

Looking at a time line, bluegrass started out of Kentucky in the 1930’s and 40’s with Bill Monroe and, the Stanley Brothers, and Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, and was found to be quite popular radio entertainment. At that point in time, there wasn’t many other outlets for the music to be presented or promoted outside of a local jam. But in September of 1965, Carlton Haney brought bluegrass out of the local jams and singular concert playing bands, in a festival that went on for three days. People from all over the country camped out and bonded together over the music day and night. All of the artists they had only been able to hear on the radio, were only a football fields length away at any given time. Not only did the festival bring people who were already into the music around but it spread the genre out further across the nation by inspiring others to promote their own festivals all throughout Appalachia and beyond.

You can see all of the excitement in the biography “Bluegrass Country Soul,” and it goes into depth on the festival and Haney’s take on what brought the people together. Unfortunately, he stopped holding the annual festival that generated such a fan base and talent pool, and the Cantrell’s Horse Farm, in Fincastle, Virginia where it was held is now run down and campgrounds are home to none but shrubbery and when you see pictures of it, it is such a nostalgic feeling and it is hard to believe that is where history was made for the music of bluegrass.bluegrass ruins

As addressed in the article by Owen Gardner entitled “The Portable Community: Mobility and Modernization in Bluegrass Festival Life,” he goes over how the festival impacted the spread of the music, and how it brought people away from their homes and took them from festival to festival. The festival life has grown and it truly is a community of its own in which talent is still brought forth and happiness is shared by all who gather to hear the music, and although Mr. Haney may be gone and his rested land no longer feels the tires of campers or the feet of the many fans or the sweet sound of the mandolin, it is nice to see that it sparked such a movement that will never fade.



2015 Appalachian State Fiddler’s Convention

I have never been to a festival or convention for bluegrass before this visit to Appalachian State. The most that I had seen of live bluegrass was at the bluegrass nights when I would go to my volunteer fire station. We bring in once a month, local bands and they would play all night in the station bay, but I never got into it very much at the time. Now that I have been in the class for a bit and started to really get back into the music, I can truly appreciate where it comes from and the place it holds in my own life.

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The convention was a true eye opener to the popularity that the genre still holds. I learned a lot about the music and the people that play and the people that just come to listen. The whole experience was new to me, from the music to the handcrafts to the instrument makers. I loved the whole convention! There was an element that came from seeing and hearing the music that you don’t  get from the class room. I was able to experience that feeling of community that is talked about in every article. I could distinguish the different sounds with the instruments by seeing them individually on stage.

If I had to say, I think my favorite experience from the entire trip, was listening to the music, and watching other people who were there for the show. There was such a great crowd and when a good tune was being played or a catchy dance was being performed, you could really feel the room come to life. People stomped their feet and clapped their hands. Children played and ran about. It was like a whole new community was formed just for that special weekend.

I talked to quite a few people who crafted the instruments and was able to learn why they do what they do. There was a couple people that quit their other jobs just so they could make instruments. Others got into it because they wanted to impress a girl. And still others just grew up in families were it was expected. But each of them shared a common love for the music and the people that it brought together. That is something that you cannot get out of a book or watching a video. Truly an experience unforgettable.