June 30--It takes more than a thunderstorm to stop the party at Owensboro's ROMP: Bluegrass Roots & Branches Festival at Yellow Creek Park.
A line of dark storm clouds began to creep across the sky at 6 p.m. Saturday, and Gabrielle Gray, executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Museum, came on stage to announce that if lightning was seen, the stage would have to shut down for 30 minutes.
But, she said, "We're gonna party all night."
The crowd of fans from around the world roared its approval.
And Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver launched into the gospel classic, "God Put A Rainbow in the Cloud."
Around 7 p.m., the thunderstorm finally hit, and the stage was closed for more than an hour.
And then, a little after 8 p.m., a rainbow appeared over the stage.
Gray said the final three acts -- David Grisman Sextet, Sam Bush Band and the Punch Brothers would all perform slightly shortened sets.
The 10th annual ROMP was also Owensboro's 29th bluegrass festival, dating back to the old "Bluegrass with Class" festival in English Park in 1985.
"We didn't know what to expect back then," Terry Woodward, chairman emeritus of the bluegrass museum, said as he stood in the middle of the dance pit at ROMP. "Bluegrass wasn't as popular or as accepted back then. We've adapted to the changing culture, but we can continue to do it better every year."
In 2012, the International Bluegrass Music Association named ROMP its event of the year.
"I go to Bonnaroo (the Bonaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn.), and I like it," Gary Shaw of Louisville said. "But I love this one. It's more laid-back. People in golf carts drive around and pick you up and take you where you're going. I talked to 11 people from Louisville. Ten of us love ROMP, and one didn't."
Bonnaroo reported attendance of 100,000 in 2012.
"It has a really good variety of music," said Ed Clark of Whitesville who was attending his third ROMP. "It has music for the older people, and it has music for the young people. This thing ain't gonna quit growing. It's gonna keep on growing."
"I'm having a great time," said Renee Mesplay of Owensboro, who was also attending for the third year. "I love the Carolina Chocolate Drops. But I haven't heard a band that I didn't like. It's just awesome that we can attract this caliber of musicians to Owensboro."
Martin Vitasek and the other members of Goodwill, the Czech band that won top honors at the 2012 European World of Bluegrass Festival in the Netherlands, sat beside the stage watching Lawson & Quicksilver, a band they had grown up listening to on CDs.
"This is our first time in America," said Vitasek, the band's guitarist and lead singer. "We've had a great time here. Our dream has come true at this festival."
Goodwill performed at the bluegrass museum Thursday afternoon.
They were part of an international contingent that included people from Australia, Canada, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan and Sweden
Kitsy Kuykendall of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine spent her birthday at ROMP.
"I've been coming to Owensboro since 1985," she said. "This just keeps getting better and better. I'm really proud of Owensboro."
Gray said she believes both Thursday and Friday nights saw the biggest crowds ever on those nights.
Frisbees sailed through the summer evening. Two women danced with hula hoops in front of the stage. And people settled back in their chairs enjoying the cool breeze before the rain rolled in.
Gray said she expected ROMP 2013 to hit its last musical note sometime around 3:30 a.m. Sunday with Faubush Hill and the Lost Bayou Ramblers performing the final After Party in the park's Pioneer Village.
Keith Lawrence, 691-7301, firstname.lastname@example.org
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