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Henderson: Where bluegrass grows

He has a surname that is very familiar to folks in Alabama, so it’s his obligation to be political.

But, Rex’s Bluegrass Festival is not the place for politics. Everybody there is “family” and no party affiliation is allowed on the premises.

So Richard Folsom, mayor of Rex Locklar’s Bluegrass “Backyard” takes a backseat to politics and concentrates on poetry.

On Locklar’s 80th birthday, Folsom wrote a poem in honor of the Henderson Bluegrass patriarch that ended with a very sincere, “Lord, thank you for Bluegrass and Rex and all the gang.”

“The poem is in a book that I published and will also be made into a song,” Folsom said. “Nobody knows and understands what these festivals mean to so many of us unless they are a part of them. I’ve been coming for 18 years, and there’s no way that I would miss one.”

A couple of years ago Folsom had a stroke and was in the hospital at the time for “Rex’s Show.”

“The doctor wasn’t going to let me out. I was on the way to Rex Locklar’s Bluegrass Festival when I had the stroke,” Folsom said. “I told the doctor that if I was going to die, I wanted to die in Henderson, Alabama, not in a hospital. When I do die, I’m going to have my ashes sprinkled here on this place.”

Many of those who attend Locklar’s bi-annual events are just as loyal to Rex Locklar and as dedicated to the festivals that he has been “puttin’ on” for 44 years.

The 2010 Spring Henderson Bluegrass Festival actually got in full swing Thursday and will continue until after midnight tonight. But last Sunday afternoon, 23 RVs were already hooked up and ready to enjoy the high lonesome sound of bluegrass in Henderson.

Jessie Hutchison has been coming to Henderson for 33 years. When her husband died 11 years ago, her daughter offered to bring her every year and Hutchison also invited her friend, Cindy Posey and her husband to come along.

“I love coming here,” Hutchison said. “You really can’t explain it. You just have to come and see for yourself.”

Posey said her friend brought her to Rex’s Bluegrass Festival nearly 23 years ago, and she’s been back every year.

“I didn’t know that people still lived like this,” she said. “It’s wonderful that this culture as survived and it’s wonderful to be a part of it.”

Someone hollered for “grouchy ol’ Rex” but he didn’t mind.

“I am grouchy,” he said. “Anybody would be grouchy if they had to put up will all these aggravating folks.”

Those around Locklar laughed because they knew that he is happiest when he’s’ grouchy.

“Rex is ornery,” said his longtime friend, Dwight Lincoln, ‘like Abraham.’ “He’s a mean ol’ coot. He goes around abusing people ,but we love him anyway.”

Locklar was obviously pleased by the “compliment.” A huge grin pushed his ears up a notch. He cocked his head and drove off on his “cart” to get an earful of the music that he loves best. Locklar waved back over his shoulder and everyone laughed.

“This is the most laid back place in the world,” Folsom said. “This is the most wonderful experience a person can enjoy. Rex is the best. The best bluegrass music is played here and the best people in the world congregate here.”

Spoken like a true backyard politician.