For the eighth straight year Hazard will play host to a group of bluegrass bands for the annual Hazard Bluegrass Festival. This year’s festival will be a bit different as it will expand to a two-day event July 20 and 21.
The festival was the brainchild of the host band, Wolf Creek Grass. The band’s members believe in preserving the traditional music and history of the mountains through playing the good old classics. The founding member of Wolf Creek Grass was the creator of the festival and the entire band has jumped on board.
“Gary Joseph had a vision of being able to do a good festival close to home, free, so that the people in the area and the surrounding counties could listen to good, genuine traditional bluegrass completely free of charge,” said Wolf Creek Grass bassist Terri Kelly.
Kelly said the band has a love for the festival, even though they tour and play gigs on a regular basis.
“It is something that all of us have a real passion for,” said Kelly. “To be able to do a festival without any cost to the public especially with the economy the way it is.”
The Hazard Bluegrass Festival is held at the stage in Perry County Park and is open to anyone. The family friendly environment has room for dancing and even an open stage.
“It is just a completely family-oriented event. We don’t have any alcohol, drugs nothing along those lines,” said Kelly. “You are not going to have to worry about your children being safe there.”
This year’s lineup consists of mostly local bands that share Wolf Creek Grass’s passion for upholding the traditions of bluegrass music. While there is a resurgence of interest in the bluegrass style in main stream music with the success of bands like The Avett Brothers and Old Crow Medicine Show, Kelly said that they look for incredibly traditional bands.
“That is the way that that tradition has survived is for families and friends to continue to just play the songs that people listened to 50 years ago,” said Kelly.
This year a few old favorites to the festival will be playing along with some newer bands. Host band Wolf Creek Grass will be joined by Rambling Grass, The Bruce Weeks Family Band, Boone Creek Grass, Mountain Melody, Salt Creek, and Fast Lane.
“We do have several good bands that have been there every year and then we try to rotate and keep things fresh,” said Kelly.
The bands will start playing on Friday night at 6 p.m. and start again at 1 p.m. on Saturday. At noon on Saturday there will be an open stage.
The Bruce Weeks Family Band will be traveling the furthest for the festival this year from Woodstock, Georgia. In the past many of the bands have come from out of state, but Kelly said it has been easy to find incredibly talented local bands that share their passion for the music and festival this year.
She said that for her and the others playing at the festival bluegrass, this event is the continuance of a lifelong love of music.
“Me personally, I think it is just something that is absolutely in your soul if you hear it and it speaks to your soul you are hooked,” said Kelly.
For many bluegrass musicians, this love starts at an early age from hearing and playing music with their family. Bluegrass remains one of the last true family forms of music and that is reflected in the bands performing this year. Several of them are made up primarily of family members. Kelly even plays in Wolf Creek Grass with her husband, Mike Kelly.
“There are several that are composed of almost entirely families,” said Kelly. “It is so neat to see second and third generations.”
After seven years of the festival, the bands remain excited to have a chance to play again in Hazard where the people know and appreciate traditional bluegrass. They said since this event is free the support of the community who understands their mission is incredibly important.
“We would not be able to do this if it were not for the support of the Perry County Tourism and the support of the local businesses that are our sponsors,” said Kelly. “We are so grateful that they share our vision.”