City making strides as bluegrass capital, Schiminger tells Chamber

City making strides as bluegrass capital, Schiminger tells Chamber

Bluegrass music was in air Thursday at the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce’s Rooster Booster Breakfast.

And the emphasis was on how Owensboro can capitalize on the music created by Rosine native Bill Monroe, “the father of bluegrass music.”

“Wow!,” Drew Davis, a marketing specialist, said in a video. “You’re making such incredible progress in staking your claim as the ‘Bluegrass Music Capital of the World.’ I’m so impressed with the progress you’ve made in such a short time.”

Davis told the Rooster Booster crowd in November 2020 that the city needed to find something that it could legitimately claim that it was the capital of.

That, he said nearly two years ago, can drive both tourism and economic development.

Thursday, Davis advised all businesses to get behind the project because “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

Last year, Mayor Tom Watson appointed a nine-member Bluegrass Music Capital of the World Task Force to find ways to tie bluegrass music with economic development

Paul Schiminger, who was executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Association from 2015 to 2021, is serving as an advisor to the task force.

On Thursday, he told the Rooster Booster crowd at the Owensboro Convention Center, “You all have something very fun and very important in front of you. You need to go to ROMP. It’s one of the best festivals in the world.”

ROMP, the festival staged at Yellow Creek Park by the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum, attracted more than 25,000 fans from several countries before COVID-19 hit in 2019.

Carly Smith, curator for the Hall of Fame, said ticket sales so far for the June 22-25 festival are running at about 90% of where they were in 2019, when ROMP saw its second-largest crowd.

“I love Owensboro,” Schiminger said. “You really need to embrace bluegrass in a big way.”

He said no other city has the claim that Owensboro has to be the bluegrass capital.

Monroe was born in Ohio County.

His homeplace and the cabin of his uncle, Pendleton Vandiver, are tourist attractions.

Schiminger said when Monroe was 10, he was rushed by train to Owensboro for an emergency appendectomy, which saved his life.

“You could say Owensboro helped create bluegrass music,” he said.

Schiminger said the IBMA spent its formative years in Owensboro, where its Fan Fest and trade show were born.

And fans still miss the annual gatherings at the old Executive Inn Rivermont, he said.

The Hall of Fame is here, along with the Kentucky State Fiddle Championship, Schiminger said.

And the Hall of Fame produces both the Bluegrass Unlimited magazine and the “My Bluegrass Story” television program that is seen on RFD-TV.

Schiminger said there are more than 20 million bluegrass fans in the United States.

“And it’s growing all over the world,” he said.

Schiminger said the task force is hoping to attract more events and more bluegrass-related businesses to Owensboro.

“You’re only limited by your imagination,” he said.

Schiminger said plans call for a full-time leader for the initiative in the future.

“Let’s all make it happen,” he said.

Keith Lawrence Messenger-Inquirer