by Rachel English
As the little wooden sign in my house states: “I wasn’t born in Kentucky but I got here as fast as I could.” If you know me well, you know I am a proud Kentuckian. I have been here 26 of the 29 years of my life and it has been a great pleasure and privilege to grow up in and come back to Paducah. If I made a list all the things I love about my gorgeous and great home state, it could wind the track at Keeneland twice – maybe three times. I won’t bother trying, but I will tell you that one of the things I am most fond of is: The Music of Kentucky. And most specifically: Bluegrass.
ROMP is bluegrass heaven. Really, it is. And everything compliments everything. The workshops. The artisan vendors. The food. The musicians. The hiking trails. The wrong side of the creek. The after parties. The high fives. The hugs. The happiness in reconnecting with old friends. The joy in bonding with new neighbors. The energy!
An energy that is both wildly exhilarating and softly soothing. It’s the feeling you have as you feverishly stomp away the dirt underneath your bare feet and you hoot and holler to the 23 String Band and up to the scorching sun above as it beats down hard on your sweaty shoulders. It’s the feeling you have while relaxed on a tapestry, warmed from the day’s setting sun, as you eat curried potatoes, listen to Del McCoury pick his guitar, and watch one hundred sky lanterns float off into the twilight. It’s taking the most glorious hammock nap of your life in a special hideaway spot in the woods, as the light plinks of a banjo dance through the leaves above. It’s warm peach cobbler cooked in a cast iron skillet and washed down with cold Goldenrod milk, offered with a smile by your neighbors in the back field. It’s meeting Hootie. It’s that good old white lightening.
Two of my hometown bands were privileged enough to play at ROMP in 2014 – Red Ember and Bawn In The Mash. Although we would sometimes like to keep these fellas in our back pockets so that we can see them play live more often and much closer to home in our local arenas every single weekend, Paducah is made proud by sharing these two bands with communities far and wide. Seeing them play at two different ROMP After Parties was tremendously special and after Red Ember finished their set, we made sure to have a large celebration, complete with champagne toasts! It was a special moment to share in their excitement. Another fond memory was when two friends in my “merry band of pranksters” became engaged to be married. What can I say? ROMP brings out the love and happiness in us all.
ROMP is different from other music festivals. I could go on and on, but in short I’ll finish with this: It’s friendly, genuine, filled with honest Kentucky hospitality, and the entire community is pulsing to the beat. The beat of a beautiful bluegrass family.