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Bluegrass festival in 44th year

Inside the old schoolhouse at Henderson, there’s a sign that reads, Keep Out.

The sign may keep folks out of the schoolhouse that has seen better days but it won’t keep the bluegrass from flowing.

“The old building can fall all the way down and we’ll still keep coming,” said Jacky Slawson. “Nothing’s going to keep us away.”

Slawson was speaking of Rex’s Fall Festival a.k.a. Rex’s Bluegrass Festival. This fall marks the 44th year of the popular, bustling bluegrass festival in the usually sleepy community of Henderson in rural Pike County.

As early as two weeks ago bluegrass aficionados started to filter in. By Wednesday afternoon, Rex “Pop” Locklar was beginning to get a little rattled by all of the RVs that were lined up waiting for a spot to put down for the festival that will get in full swing today and not miss a note until the wee hours on Sunday morning.

“Pop fusses but he loves every minute of it and every one of us loves him for it,” said Lewis Record, who has been a part of Rex’s Bluegrass Festivals since the late 1980s.

“Rex’s bluegrass park isn’t fancy but it doesn’t have to be,” Record said. “We’re all family here and this is our family reunion. I love everybody in the place.”

Up came a lady with a feather in her hair.

“I had a fight with a buzzard on the way over here and all that was left of him was this feather. Just call me One Feather,” she said, laughing as she went on her way.

“It’s the atmosphere,” Record said, laughing. “It’s the people and the atmosphere. But most of all, it’s Rex. He loves everybody and we all love him.”

Record said he has been to bluegrass festivals all over the country and Rex’s festival is the best of them all.

“Some folks will come in and have trouble getting their RVs parked and say they ain’t ever coming back again,” said Raymond Pippin.

“The next year, they’ll be right back here grinning from ear to ear. You can’t run folks away from here.”

Locklar had a big grin on his face as he watched the Benton brothers, Alex and Lee, pick and sing.

“It makes me feel good to see young folks like these boys playing bluegrass,” Locklar said. “Let’s me know that it will keep going when all of us old folks are gone.

“It just keeps on going like it always has because it’s music that gets in your blood. I was watching television one night – a gospel program – and there was Marty Rayburn a big time player now and Owen Saunders and both of them played here at this ol’ place. A lot of good music’s played here. I don’t know where you can go to hear bluegrass better than right here in Henderson.”

Record cast his eyes toward the building that’s “seeing its last days.”

“That old building carries a lot of memories,” he said.

“A lot of photographs and other memorabilia of days gone by are in there. Rex said those things belong to the building and when the building goes, all those memories will go with it.”

But Rex is wrong, his friends said.

“Our memories of this place will never go away. And, we’ve got Pop to thank.”