The Ninth Annual Sally Gap Bluegrass Festival will kick off Wednesday with a talent show and gospel music concert before transitioning into three days of bluegrass music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“We have campers from out of town that come in earlier in the week. It is kind of designed to give them some entertainment before the actual festival,” organizer Vicki Cooper said about Wednesday shows.
Organizer Sarah Williams added that last year the campers started arriving on the Monday before the festival and that there were jam sessions going all week long.
The addition of Wednesday’s talent show and gospel show are the two biggest changes to this year’s festival.
The top three winners from the talent show, which starts at 6 p.m. Wednesday, qualify to compete at the state fair, Williams added.
The gospel music concerts will take place following the talent show Wednesday.
The bluegrass music will start on Thursday and run through Saturday evening.
“We have really great music,” Cooper noted. “This is a good opportunity to see bands that are touring all over the world play bluegrass music.”
Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time will headline Thursday’s show.
“A lot of people know Larry Cordle because he wrote the song, ‘Murder on Music Row’ that was such as big hit for Alan Jackson and George Strait,” Cooper said.
Southeastern Kentucky native Darrell Scott will be the headliner for Friday’s show.
“Darrell Scott is famous for writing the song, ‘You will never leave Harlan alive.’ That was a big hit for several people, including Brad Paisley,” Cooper added.
Lonesome River Band will be the headliner for Saturday’s show.
For the third year in a row, the festival will take place at 80 Moore Road in Williamsburg on a portion of Whitley County Fiscal Court’s 100-acre industrial site.
Homecoming of sorts
This is the third time that Scott has played the festival.
“It’s a sweet little festival. It’s near where my family is from,” said Scott, who was born in London and whose family lived in the small community of Crane Nest between Barbourville and London.
Scott added that one of the nice things about the Sally Gap festival is that it coincides with a memorial-decorating event his family has called, “June Meeting” which has been taking place for over 100 years.
“It’s a good fit to have a place to play and to have a place to bring family and to have grave decorating and everything for the June Meeting,” he noted.
Scott, whose new album “Couchville Sessions” was released on May 13, said he enjoys playing all kinds of venues.
He said the new album got its name from the pike where he used to live and that much of it was recorded in his living room.
The new album includes nine original songs and five covers of artists ranging from Johnny Cash to James Taylor.
Benefits good cause
There is no fee for admission to the talent show and gospel concert Wednesday. Organizers said there are just asking attendees to make a donation in any amount.
There is a $20 admission charge for Thursday’s concerts and a $25 charge on both Friday and Saturday or attendees can get a weekend pass for $60.
Children ages 12 and under get in free with a paying adult. Children ages 13 – 17 get in for $5 each with a paying adult.
Proceeds from the festival go to benefit the American Traditional Music Project.
“That is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to bluegrass and traditional music and educating people about the roots of the music and just the performing for the enjoyment of the people,” Cooper said.
The non-profit hopes to start offering music lessons for children when it gets sufficient funding, Williams added.
About 1,000 people attended last year’s festival and both Williams and Cooper expect attendance for this year’s event to exceed that.
Williams noted that organizers travel around to other bluegrass festivals each year to promote the Sally Gap festival.
In prior years, no one had heard of the Sally Gap festival before but she said that is no longer the case.
“I think we have finally made it to where we are an event that is going to be able to stay,” Williams said.
“We really expect a lot larger attendance this year,’ Cooper added.
Organizers said they have gotten a lot more community involvement this year, and that the Williamsburg Subway, Tri-County Catering, G&E Drive-In, and Dr. Truman Perry all helped feed volunteers, who were helping to set up for the festival.
In addition, the shop class at Whitley County High School helped make the necks for several small instruments that children attending the festival can build Saturday and learn how to play. The children will then perform for the crowd Saturday night.
In addition to the concerts, there will be various workshops held throughout the festival that are included in the cost of admission.