Right On My People. River Of Music People. ROMP ROMP ROMP!
Whatever it stands for, ROMP is my favorite outdoor music fest of the year. ROMP is all about free spirited, grassroots lovin’, wholesome folks celebrating the roots and branches of bluegrass music at Yellow Creek Park in Owensboro, Kentucky. Once you come, you’re hooked; This past weekend was my sixth year as a ROMPer, and my first year as a ROMP volunteer.
This year’s line up included the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Punch Brothers, Rhiannon Giddens, The Steel Drivers, Pokey LaFarge, Billy Strings and Scythian. Baby girl loved the tunes! She tumbled and danced in my tummy all weekend. That girl’s got great taste in music already!
It rained. We danced. It rained some more. We stayed up all night. We soaked it all in. A good time was had by all.
I decided to volunteer this year to cut the cost of my ticket. My volunteer shifts really weren’t that bad. I was kind of dreading it, but I ended up meeting a lot of great people that way and actually had a lot of fun getting a more behind-the-scenes look at the fest.
On Thursday I worked at a check-in gate at the back of the park. This volunteer post was way out in the woods on the very back side of Yellow Creek Park. I was stationed there from 8pm-12am with a security guard named Marty and a young man named Elijah. We had some great conversations and laughs which made the four hours go by really quickly. Marty was a father of six, so he gave me lots of humorous parenting advice, particularly on raising teenage daughters. What I took from all of his words of wisdom was this: You have prepare yourself for the cost of a girl, especially between the ages of 13-18. You have to raise them to not see color or race, but character and kindness. And you have to learn to laugh a lot off.
On Friday I was supposed to work parking from 12pm-4pm, but a really kind man offered to relieve me of my shift for the last two hours. I was SO relieved because it was down pouring most of the day, and my poncho and umbrella weren’t cutting it anymore. I went back to camp and waited out the rain with my brother, sharing laughs and some good vendor food, until around 5pm when the skies cleared and it turned out to be a really cool and beautiful night.
Saturday morning was my favorite volunteer shift. I worked from 8am-12pm in the Kids Zone, where I helped young ROMP goers make crafts like pinwheels, colorful masks, and owl ornaments. Then we had an instructor come in and give kazoo lessons. You haven’t really lived until you’ve heard 25 kids practicing the kazoo at the same time. They learned a tune and then paraded around the building kazooing their little hearts out. It was super cute. My shift ended with the bird encounter. The Western Kentucky Raptor Center brought in rescued birds like a screech owl, a great horned owl and a barred owl. I think I was just as fascinated learning about the birds as the kids were!
The music was fantastic all weekend, as it always is. There’s just something about listening to live music in an open field that really hits you in the feels. But, Saturday night was my favorite. By Saturday the rain was gone, my whole family had joined us for a beautiful day. My sister, brother-in-law, brother, mom, dad, and myself had the best day browsing the vendor booths, hammock napping in the cool breeze and listening to some of our favorite bands at the main stage. Pokey LaFarge kicked off the night with his fun and funky American roots tunes. If you’ve never heard of him, he’s definitely worth a listen!
The cherry on top of the weekend was getting to see the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band perform live. Being able to watch them with my parents was amazing. Getting to listen to some of the songs my parents grew up listening to live was really special (NGDB has been around for 50 years!). Everything from “Mr Bojangles” to “Fishin’ in the Dark” to “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”, and so many other classic hits in between. It reminded me how grateful I am that I grew up with parents who played this kind of music and passed on their love of real music to me.
At one point while they were playing, my dad reached out and grabbed all of us, making us all link hands for a moment and soak it all in. He’s a pretty sappy man, so I know having all his kids there with him for that was very special to him, as it was to us too.
It was a night I’ll never forget. Music doesn’t get any better than when it’s live, outdoors and shared with those you love the most. ❤