Good Times & Good Music

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Bluegrass festival returns to Lebanon Jan. 28-29

By Stephen Lega

When The Grascals come to Lebanon later this month, Danny Roberts said people should expect to enjoy the show.

"It's about fun, good times and good music," he said. "Hopefully, everybody will leave with a smile on their face and a song in their head."

Roberts is a Leitchfield native and the mandolin player for the Grascals, who are the featured act for the 2011 Kentucky Bluegrass Music Kickoff. The Grascals have been named Band of the Year three times by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America.

The kickoff is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 28, and Saturday, Jan. 29, at Marion County High School. The festival had been held previously during the first or second weekend in January, but it was moved back this year, in part to allow people some time to recover from the holidays, said Brad Lanham, president of the Kentucky Fellowship of Musicians, which organizes the festival.

The Grascals are the most well-known artists performing at this year's kickoff, but there are some familiar faces returning as well.

Gary "Biscuit" Davis, the three-time national banjo champion, has participated in Lebanon's bluegrass festival since it started in 2006. He'll perform Friday night with a number of guests and again Saturday. Aspiring musicians will have the opportunity to learn from Davis during workshops Saturday morning and afternoon.

Lanham said they have been fortunate that Davis has been part of the festival every year.

"We like working with him as much as we can," Lanham said.

The Hagar's Mountain Boys will return once again to the festival. The group has been to the kickoff every year since 2008, when they won the last battle of the bands.

Regular attendees of the kickoff may also remember Kelly Caldwell, whose group won the battle of the bands in 2007. She is back this year with her new group, The Mountain Connection.

Last year, the kickoff introduced a bit of humor, and this year, the Moron Brothers will be providing the comic relief.

"I don't know how to describe them - a bluegrass musical comedy act," Lanham said. "They are just hilarious, good guys. They're just good old guys that love bluegrass music and like to have a good time."

In addition to the music and a few laughs, some new elements have been added to the kickoff as well.

Lanham said Stephanie Knifley will be teaching some dances, and the Marion County Homemakers will be hosting the Kentucky Bluegrass Quilt Show.

Extension Agent Elizabeth Creed said quilts will be on display from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29. Prizes for adult and junior (18 and under) divisions will be awarded Saturday evening during the dinner show. There is also a Creative Kentucky Quilt Block contest for kids.

A variety of heritage demonstrations will be held in conjunction with the quilt show, Creed said. The first demonstration will start at 9 a.m., and the  demonstrations will include basket-making, snowball quilting, working with wool, rag rug-making and barn quilt patch painting.

At 5 p.m. Jan. 29, Karen Keown of the Kentucky Heritage Council will be speaking in the high school cafeteria about quilting, barn quilts and bluegrass music.

Chris Hamilton, the executive director of the Lebanon Tourist and Convention Commission, said the early sales for the festival have gone well. He said the commission has been promoting weekend getaway packages, and the festival has continued to grow, along with its reputation.

"We're getting a lot of repeat business and a lot of new business," Hamilton said.

The festival will also be hosting the WoodSongs Music Stage sponsored by Lebanon Ag Credit this year. The WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour show is broadcast live on Mondays on 502 radio stations from the Kentucky Theater in Lexington.

Lanham said its possible that Michael Jonathan, the host of the WoodSongs radio show, may be in attendance during this year's bluegrass festival as well.

Visitors to the festival may remember another feature that has become part of the Saturday evening show, and Lanham said it would be part of this year's show as well.

"The blue blazer is in the closet cleaned and ready to go," he said.

Lanham added that the festival has been fortunate to feature up-and-coming and veteran bluegrass bands over the years, and he's pleased with this year's line-up as well.

"If you're going to have a bluegrass festival, you're going to want to have the Grascals at some time," Lanham said.

And Roberts said The Grascals enjoy performing in the Bluegrass State as well.

"It's my home state and there's so many good music fans," Roberts said. "It's always a pleasure for us to go to Kentucky."


The 2011 Kentucky Bluegrass Music Kickoff will be held Friday, Jan. 28, and Saturday, Jan. 29, at Marion County High School.

Friday, Jan. 28

"Come Play with Biscuit"

Three-time national banjo picking champion Gary "Biscuit" Davis will perform with a variety of guests, including the Hagar's Mountain Boys. Musicians who are interested in performing, should email kentuckyfellowshipofmusicians@hotmail.com with the subject line "Play with Biscuit".

Doors open at 6 p.m. Performances begin around 7 p.m.

Saturday Jan. 29

8 a.m. Doors open for the workshops and late sign-ups.

9 a.m. Morning workshops begin. The Kentucky Bluegrass Quilt Show opens.

Basket-making demonstration by Kay Clark.

10:15 a.m. Snow ball quilting demonstration by Martha Ann Potter.

11:30 a.m. Working with wool demonstration by Norma Jean Campbell.

1 p.m. Afternoon workshops begin.

1:30 p.m. Rag rug-making demonstration by Betty Montgomery.

2:45 p.m. Barn quilt painting demonstration by Nancy Miles.

4 p.m. Quilt show closes

5 p.m. Karen Keown of the Kentucky Heritage Council will speak in the cafeteria.

6 p.m. Doors open for ticket-holders for the dinner and show.

6:30 p.m. Dinner is served.

6:45 p.m. Guest performers.

7 p.m. Doors open for individuals with tickets for the show only.

7:30 p.m Saturday evening show featuring Gary "Biscuit" Davis, The Moron Brothers, The Hagar's Mountain Boys and The Grascals.

Tickets for Friday evening can be purchased at the gate.

Tickets for the Saturday show only can be purchased in advance or at the gate.

Tickets for the Saturday dinner and show must be purchased in advance by Jan. 26.

For ticket information call the Lebanon Tourist and Convention Commission at (270) 692-0021 or visit the commission's website, www.visitlebanonky.com.

Entries for the Kentucky Bluegrass Quilt Show must be submitted by Friday, Jan. 21, the Marion County Cooperative Extension Office, 415 Fairground Road in Lebanon. For more information about the quilt show, call the extension office at (270) 692-2421.

2011 KBMK performers

The Grascals are the headliners for the 2011 Kentucky Bluegrass Music Kickoff. The Grascals have been named bluegrass band of the year three times (2007, 2008 and 2010) by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America, and they have been nominated again for 2011. The Grascals have also been named entertainer of the year twice (2006 and 2007) and emerging artist of the year (2005) by the International Bluegrass Music Association.

Their most recent album, The Grascals and Friends, is available exclusively at Cracker Barrel and a portion of the proceeds for that album are being donated to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.


Other performers:

- Gary "Biscuit" Davis is the three-time national banjo champion. Davis has been a fixture at Lebanon's bluegrass festival since it started in 2006.


- A crowd-favorite, the Hagar's Mountain Boys will be back at the bluegrass festival for the fourth time. They won the last battle of the bands in 2008, and they have been featured performers ever since.


- The Mountain Connection will be performing this year as well, but some of the members may be familiar to festival attendees. Some of the members were part of the Kelly Caldwell Band, which won the battle of the bands during the festival in 2007.