Arts and Culture

The 37th annual Kentucky Music Weekend cues up Friday at Iroquois Park. Through Sunday, the festival will host traditional music acts ranging from jug bands to the state-wide dulcimer competition.

The weekend kicks off at 7 p.m. on Friday with a concert featuring John Gage. There is a suggested $10 donation for evening mainstage concerts, but daytime events are free. A full festival schedule is available online.

Not all musicians performing are Kentuckians, but the festival’s emphasis is on acoustic traditional sounds.

“It covers everything from blues to jazz to string band to bluegrass to singer/songwriter. We try to touch on many of those bases. We’ll have Grease Gravy String Band, and we’ll have Juggernaut Jug Band, and bluegrass greats Storefront Congregation will be there,” says festival organizer Nancy Johnson.  

The festival also features Corn Island Storytellers, traditional crafts and the state-wide dulcimer competition. The dulcimer is the official musical instrument of Kentucky, and this is the ninth year the Kentucky Music Weekend has hosted the contest.  

There are two kinds of dulcimer, so two state champs. State winners go on to the national stage in Kansas this September. 

Johnson says the Kentucky Music Weekend helps keep the state’s musical history and traditions alive. She plays the mountain dulcimer – the one you play across your lap.

“It’s got three or four strings, and it’s very melodic, beautiful, haunting sound. The hammered dulcimer is a large trapezoid-shaped instrument, and you strike the strings with little sticks we call hammers. That was the predecessor of the clavichord, the harpsichord and finally the piano,” says Johnson.

The Louisville Dulcimer Society will host an informal jam tent all weekend, and on Saturday morning, you can even take a class – bring your own dulcimer.