Bluegrass Festival under way in Henderson

Published 9:49 pm Thursday, April 9, 2009

Chester Best surveyed the sea of RVs that flooded Henderson Music Park, took a deep breath and explained it all. “It’s just an old country thing,” he said of Rex Locklar’s Bluegrass Jamboree.

“You just pull up and park under an oak tree, get out and go to making music. That’s all there is to it. Nothing fancy. Just an old country thing.”

The RVers began arriving at Henderson Music Park on Sunday and immediately starting making music with the crowd of pickers that already had been there for about two weeks.

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“Yeah, they started coming real early,” said Rex “Mr. Bluegrass” Locklar. “This is Easter weekend and some of them will leave late on Saturday or early on Sunday morning to get home to their churches. I’m gonna miss the sunrise service this year myself. But we’ll have a service here.”

For 44 years now, Locklar has been hosting Bluegrass Festivals twice a year – the second week in April and the second week in October. “Sometimes it falls on Easter but not often,” Locklar said.

“But, when it does, we go ahead with it.”

Even though it’s Easter, Locklar expects a huge crowd for the weekend “if the weather holds.”

“We’ve had a good crowd all week but Friday and Saturday are the big days,” he said. “We’ll have picking and singing on the schoolhouse stage beginning about 6 o’clock both nights and we’ve got folks coming from nine states. The Rivertown Girls are supposed to be here and this will be just about their last appearance except for a festival down in Dothan. They’re going off to college and I sure do hate that they won’t be here anymore. They’ve been coming since they were little girls. I sure hate to see them go.”

But Locklar is encouraged by the large number of young people that come.

“Oh, we’ll have a big bunch of young folks and they’re good pickers,” he said. “I believe that we’ve got the best bunch of musicians that we’ve ever had. By Friday night, they’ll be playing all over the place. You’ll just have to pick out what you like and get in there with them.”

“Oh, it’s good to hear the bluegrass coming at you from everywhere,” Best said. “I’ve been coming down here since the early 1960s when there was nothing going on but square dancing. Back them, Rex had goats and we’d barbecue a goat and dance. Those were good ol’ days, too.”

But the best days are the ones when Henderson Music Park is packed with RVs and the bluegrass fills the air. “There’s no place like this anywhere,” Best said.

“This is just a special place where friends come together to play bluegrass. It’s not fancy but it’s the best place in the world.” Best looked up at the sagging roof of the old Henderson schoolhouse.

“If the building falls down, we’ll just put up a tent and keep playing,” he said with a smile. “We have too much fun to stop.”

Tickets for Rex Locklar’s Bluegrass Festival are $5 a day.