Enhancing the brand: 'The Great American Bluegrass Jam' draws players from across the country

Mar. 19—The Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum is no stranger to having its building filled with music, and Saturday was no different.

"The Great American Bluegrass Jam" made its debut downtown this weekend in several locations, including The Holiday Inn, with various businesses hosting bands to perform.

Chris Joslin, executive director of the museum, called the event a "bluegrass music extravaganza" and "multi-faceted."

Beginning Friday, The Holiday Inn hosted "Kentucky Fried Pickin'," where musicians were able to gather at the hotel and play for 24 hours, Joslin said.

Joslin said the Friday night Earls of Leicester show at the museum was sold out.

"So far the turnout has been great," he said. "The 'Kentucky Fried Pickin" has been going on for a few years, and the Kentucky State Fiddle Championship has been going on for a few years, so we decided to combine forces and synch these great events together on the same weekend and give people who were thinking about traveling to Owensboro an irresistible option to do that."

Since Owensboro declared itself as the "Bluegrass Music Capital of the World" in November 2021, Joslin said this event is a "practical way" to live up to that name.

"It's one thing to say it, but it's another way to live that out, so I think events like this are a natural expression of that," he said. "To be the 'Bluegrass Capital of the World,' you're going to have multi-day, multi-faceted events centered around the music. It's an example of a lot more to come in the future."

The highlight of Saturday's portion of the event was the Kentucky Fiddle Championship, which resumes Sunday morning.

"The Kentucky Fiddle Championship began in the mid-70s, and we began producing it three years ago," Joslin said. "It's a state title in fiddle, guitar, mandolin, banjo and clogging. It's a contest, but it's really a great excuse for musicians of all ages to get together and have fun."

One of the championship contestants on Saturday was 10-year-old Tallon May from Fordsville. She was at the event with her mother, Kristie May.

"I was nervous, but it was really fun," Tallon May said.

Tallon May said she has been playing for about three years, and her mother couldn't be more proud of her.

"You're a nervous wreck as a parent for them, but when they get up there and you can tell that she's calm, then you're able to calm down," Kristie May said.

Kristie May said her family has always been around bluegrass music.

"I clog, our family plays, and (Tallon May) just started picking up the fiddle, so we've always gone to bluegrass festivals," she said. "This one in particular I've been to for years, so now she's playing, we started going back to them."

Kristie and Tallon May said they anticipate to be back at the event next year.

Jacob Foster, 14, from Freeburg, Illinois, traveled to Owensboro to perform in the championship. He's been a musician since the age 4.

"This is my first time performing at a championship in Kentucky," he said.

Foster said he had never been to the museum prior to this weekend.

"I saw the event on YouTube from 2022, and I thought this would be a good competition to compete in and something I'd be proud of," he said.

Foster began playing because he said his parents "made" him, but he fell in love with it quickly.

Sunday festivities for "The Great American Bluegrass Jam" begin at 9 a.m. with a "Bluegrass Brunch" at Burger Theory and the Kentucky Fiddle Championship will resume at 10 a.m. The museum opens at 8 a.m.

For more information on the event and for a list of activities, visit www.bluegrasshall.org.