The new International Bluegrass Music Center will open with a three-day celebration on Oct. 18-20, Chris Joslin, the center’s executive director, told the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The opening is expected to bring several hundred people to town that weekend.
“We’ll have three days of live music,” Joslin said Wednesday. “One day will be sort of a mini-ROMP with bands performing on the outdoor stage.”
More details, including the names of the acts, will be announced later, he said.
But Joslin said, “All the groups have been at ROMP.”
The $15.3 million bluegrass center will be open for tours all three days, he said.
The opening of the center will be the culmination of more than 30 years of local efforts.
Terry Woodward began a push in 1985, when he was chairman of the old Owensboro-Daviess County Tourist Commission, to make Owensboro a center for bluegrass music with a bluegrass museum.
The International Bluegrass Music Association moved here in 1986 and created Fan Fest and an awards show in Owensboro.
In 1992, the bluegrass museum opened on a part-time basis.
It wouldn’t open on a full-time basis until a decade later — after a $3 million grant from the state.
The IBMA moved its events out of Owensboro in 1997. But Woodward said the museum could be more important on a long-term basis than the IBMA.
“We have to have more than a one-week-a-year festival,” he said. “It’s unlimited what we can do with a new facility.”
In 2010, when the efforts to build the new facility at Second and Frederica streets began, Woodward predicted that it could attract 200,000 people a year — if it was done right.
The CVB, which is working with the bluegrass center to plan the celebration, recently approved $15,000 to help promote the center’s ROMP Fest on June 27-30 at Yellow Creek Park.
That event is the center’s major fundraiser.
Ruth Ann Dearness, CVB chairwoman, said ROMP “is one of the top signature events of our city.”
Joslin said it “showcases the best of Owensboro.”
He said he’s seeing a lot of first-time ticket buyers this year.
One reason, Joslin said, is the fact that bluegrass icon Alison Krauss, who won the hearts of area bluegrass fans as a teenager in the 1980s, will be playing ROMP for the first time in its 15-year history.
She doesn’t do a lot of events when she’s not on tour, Joslin said, but Krauss has a long history with Owensboro.
She performed here several times at the old International Bluegrass Music Association Fan Fest from 1989 through 1995.
Krauss last performed in Owensboro at the RiverPark Center in 2001.
Joslin said it’s not just fans who fill local hotel rooms that week.
Musicians performing at ROMP will fill 150 rooms during the festival, he said.
Last year, ROMP saw a record crowd of 26,512 spread over four days.
The biggest crowd was 8,436 on the final day.
They came from 39 states and four other countries.
Twenty percent came from more than 200 miles away — meaning they likely spent the night.
“Our retention rate for attendees is really great,” Joslin said. “About 65 percent are local.”
Space will be tight
But Joslin said he expects that the crowd on June 30 when Krauss, Sam Bush and seven other bands perform will “test the limits” of the park’s capacity.
“It’s not the seating so much as room to park cars,” he said.
Joslin said, “We’re dangerously close to running out of space to park RVs.”
Last year, ROMP reported that nearly 2,000 people camped in the 150-acre park — including nearly 300 RVs.
Dave Kirk, destination management director for the CVB, said this year the Owensboro trolley will be used to shuttle fans from downtown to Yellow Creek Park and back.
And Lyft drivers will be doing the same thing, he said.
Last year, the CVB used GRITS buses to shuttle people, but that cost $9,000, Kirk said.
The trolley will cost $1,200.
O.Z. Tyler Distillery will have its own shuttle running to and from ROMP, Kirk said.
The ROMP lineup shows Robbie Fulks and Hank Pattie & The Current on June 27.
Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Leftover Salmon, Doyle Lawson & Quick Silver, Phoebe Hunt & The Gatherers, Sheriff Scott & The Deputies, Fireside Collective and Pert Near Sandstone perform on June 28.
Rhiannon Giddens, The Travelin’ McCourys, Jeff Austin Band, We Banjo 3, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, Fireside Collective and The Po’ Ramblin Boys appear on June 29.
And Alison Krauss, Sam Bush, Parker Millsap, Billy Strings, Michael Daves with Tony Trischka, Mile Twelve, Love Canon, The Barefoot Movement and the Kentucky BlueGrass AllStars play on June 30.