The Lincoln Jamboree in Hod­gen­ville celebrates its 65th anniversary this weekend with two days filled with special shows and events.

What began as a 20-week engagement Sept. 11, 1954 at the Cardinal Theatre in Hodgen­ville, has grown into a mainstay for weekend entertainment in the region.

The show took place at Cardinal Theatre until creator Joel Ray Sprowls purchased the Lincoln Vil­lage Restaurant and property to build a theater. The 700-seat jamboree building opened in 1961, anniversary organizer, Jay Henderson, said.

“That’s kind of when it exploded,” Henderson said.

It was there until 1968 when light­ening struck during a show. The lights flickered but the show went on, not knowing the attic was on fire. The rest of the shows that season were performed in a tent, he said.

In Sept. of 1968 the current auditorium was opened. The restaurant closed in Oct. 2018.

Along with Jamboree regulars, some famous names have graced the stage including Jerry Lee Lewis, Grandpa Jones, Bill Monroe, Jerry Clower, Lorrie Morgan and Patty Lovelace.

Sprowls continued to emcee the show through the years, even after plane crash injuries and several strokes. Last year, he began missing shows for the first time.

His last show was Dec. 15, 2018. He was in Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown for several days until being moved to Sunrise Manor, where he now resides. In January he had another stroke and it has affected his speech, Henderson said. Until that time, he continued to book the talent for the show, Henderson said.

Henderson hopes the 91-year-old Sprowls will be able to make it to the anniversary show.

Everyone living who was a part of the jamboree band when the building opened in 1968 has been invited to be a part of a Blast from the Past appearance during the anniversary and Henderson would like Sprowls to be a part of that.

“It’s going to be the biggest show in 65 years,” Henderson said.

Events include free camping all weekend, food vendors, an outdoor flea market, free old-time western gunfight and free gospel sing on Saturday and jamboree shows on Saturday night and Sun­day afternoon.

The show is at 7:30 p.m. Satur­day featuring musical acts, the Sweethearts of the Jamboree, Joel Ray’s Jamboree gang and a Blast from the Past featuring jamboree favorites such as Charles Durham, Ronnie Benningfield, Lou Bingham, Glenn Phillips, Jim Curry and Sprowls.

The Sunday matinée starts at 2 p.m. and features Rockin Terry Lee, a performer from England, Henderson said.

Tickets are $12 per show.

The basic format of the show has not changed since Sprowls has been unable to organize it. He wanted it that way and Hen­derson said they won’t change it.

“He wanted it to go on in his legacy if he was there or not,” he said. “He’s a perfectionist and won’t accept anything less than perfection.”

Henderson said the historical setting of Lincoln was a big aid to Sprowls’ success through the years.

“Joel Ray was in the right place at the right time,” he said. “He really was able to capitalize on Lincoln and being near the birthplace.”

Sprowls had a 17-year run when the Jamboree was sold out every Saturday night, Henderson said.

“One of his (Sprowls) big things was he wanted the 65th to be the biggest,” he said. “So we haven’t held back anything for it.”

For more information or reservations, call 270-358-3545. The Lincoln Jamboree is at 2579 Lincoln Farm Road in Hodgenville.

Becca Owsley can be reached at 270-505-1740 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com.

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