Written by Drea Moreland
I first learned about ROMP in 2012 while attending University of California, Santa Cruz. I was about to graduate and instead of taking a graduation trip overseas, my husband (Rod) and I opted to save our money to buy a VW van and travel across the country for the summer. Sometime in the winter of 2012 I saw that two of my favorite bands, Old Crow Medicine Show and Carolina Chocolate Drops, would be performing at a festival called ROMP in Owensboro, Kentucky that summer, (which happened to be our wedding anniversary) since we were already going to be on the road somewhere, I figured we should buy 2 passes and attend! So, after graduation we packed up all of our belongings, put them in a storage unit and hit the road in our VW Westfalia and began our trek from California to Kentucky. When we arrived at our first ROMP we did not know anyone or even what to expect once we got there, we also arrived during a crazy heat wave where 108 was the average temperature. In no time at all we were conversing with our camp neighbors on both sides of us, (the Hill’s and the Turner’s) we had no idea that we were making lifelong friends at that time. We found our way to our first after party pre-party ... upon walking to the “wrong side of the creek” I heard the clacking of a flatfoot dancer on board, fiddle, mandolin, banjo and the sweet voices of The Giving Tree Band, I was already in bluegrass heaven and it was just Wednesday. We spent our days jamming and jabbering with friendly musicians, I also was able to attend a few workshops that some of the ROMP musicians led, even in miserable heat our joy was not broken. Our night’s consisted of the shows of course. The highlights of my first ROMP included, meeting Ketch Secor of Old Crow and having him sign my harmonica and give me a few pointers, hanging out at the after party with Pokey LaFarge, Ryan Koenig (who also signed one of my harmonicas) and Dom Flemons of Carolina Chocolate Drops, but the absolute best part was the friends we made. I had caught the bluegrass bug and knew we had to come back in 2013!
Fast forward to 2014, we attended our third ROMP in a row, this time we were on the street team in Boulder, Colorado (where we now live). This year was better than ever, playing music with old and new friends, hanging out with some of the bands, eating good food and of course listening to my favorite bands all in one spot. I am always talking about ROMP and trying to get all of my friends to come, my family knows that when it comes time for our wedding anniversary we go to “our festival,” whats more romantic than bluegrass all weekend with your best friends? ROMP is hands down, the best festival I have ever attended. I am planning on attending ROMP as long as it exists, one day our future children will also attend. I could write a book on my ROMP experiences, but for the sake of brevity: ROMP has changed me as a person, I used to just dabble in the harmonica, but after ROMP 2012, I caught the “music bug,” I became a practicing fool since then and I am now a working musician and harmonica teacher (dreavanmoreland.com), I hope to one day play on the ROMP stage. However, the absolute best part about our ROMP experience has been the friendships and family that have come from it (you know who you are). This past year, we could not afford to come out even though we already had street team tickets, once I announced that sad news, I was brought to tears by finding out my ROMP family had started a fundraiser to get us there and back! I could not believe the love and generosity, some who helped did not even know us, but greeted us with open arms, warm smiles and the embrace of friendship. We are so lucky to be a part of this, we have even talked about moving to Kentucky so we can be around our ROMP family all year. Each year we meet more members of our ROMP family, every year is better than the last. This past year, was the best ROMP.