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Picking and giving in Vine Grove

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Bluegrass scramble benefits Hosparus

By Becca Owsley

A lot of pickin’ will be going on in Vine Grove, and it’s for a good cause.

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The Vine Grove Bluegrass Jam Fundraiser and Band Scramble kicks off at 6 p.m. March 1 at Vine Grove City Hall. For the second time, bluegrass musicians will use a jam session and scramble to raise money for Hosparus of Central Kentucky. Bluegrass enthusiasts regularly come together and play in Vine Grove.

Organizer Bobby Smith decided to use bluegrass to support the organization after he spent some time working with Hosparus. The last event raised almost $2,000.

The event benefits Hosparus Central Kentucky patients and their families, said Stephanie Smith, Hosparus director of communications. 

“Thanks to events like this, in 2012, we served nearly 900 central Kentuckians regardless of their ability to pay,” she said.

Fundraising events, grants and donations allow Hosparus to provide bereavement services at no charge to families, she said.

“Our nonprofit hospice organization also cares for pediatric patients whose families often have little or no means to pay,” she said. “Last year, Hosparus provided nearly $1.6 million in charity care.”

The event starts with a band scramble. In a scramble, all participants put their names in a basket labeled with the instrument they play — banjo, mandolin, guitar and others. Randomly, names are drawn out to form bands.

Bands then have a short time to put together a few songs to perform. Some of the musicians playing together might not have met before.

It’s always a crowd pleaser and a good way to meet other bluegrass musicians, Smith said.

“It really taps into the essence of bluegrass jamming,” he said. “As long as you know your basic chords and a little bit about bluegrass, you can basically show up at any jam and play.”

Anyone who has an instrument can put their name in the basket for the scramble.

Popularity of bluegrass music has peaks and valleys and a lot of it is media driven, Smith said.

The first surge was with Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs, who set the standard for all other bluegrass, Smith said. The Stanley Brothers boosted bluegrass again and then it fizzled out some because it was linked to country and didn’t have a brand of its own, creating a bit of a bluegrass identity crisis, he said.

A huge resurgence coincided with the release of two films. “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967) used “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” as its key song and in some circles is credited with saving the five-string banjo when viewers wanted to learn the song, Smith said.

“Deliverance” (1972) was the other film with a heavy banjo sound in its score.

The 1970s had a third generation sound called newgrass and the latest surge came with the film “O Brother, Where Art Thou” (2000), he said.

Since then, it’s taken a dip, mostly because of the economy, Smith said.

For the March 1 event, the scramble is followed by a bluegrass jam featuring Tommy Brown and the Country Line Grass, McDonald Road and Grandview Junction.

The core group loves participating in the band scramble but Smith hopes the opportunity to raise money for Hosparus will bring new attendees.

The free event includes a potluck dinner. Donations for Hosparus are encouraged and there is a raffle, silent auction and a “ladies vs. gents” coin drive to help spur donations.

For more information, call (270) 300-1316 or go to www.facebook.com/events/370085813071413/?ref=2.

Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com.