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Down to the river to play


Newsroom Coordinator

If one had driven down by the river on June 25 or June 26, they would have been treated to the sounds of hammered dulcimers, banjos, guitars and other instruments being played by folks enjoying the Down by the Riverside Jam.

Bill Johnson and his wife, Jane, were planning on attending Kentucky Music Week this year, an event traditionally held in Bardstown during the last week of June that attracts hundreds of musicians. The event was canceled last year, but the couple were hopeful they’d get to attend this year since COVID restrictions are relaxing. Unfortunately, while camping in Brandenburg, they received an email notifying them of its cancelation.

But Bill and Jane wanted to play since the pandemic had prevented them from enjoying any kind of jam session for 14 months. So, they decided to organize their own event.

“I got the idea of reserving the gazebo in River Front Park and then put out a public invitation for a jam session in the gazebo,” said Bill. “I had hopes that we could attract 10 or 12 area musicians and have a couple of days of playing music together.”

Bill got more than he wished for, with 50 players coming from as far as Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and even some people local to Brandenburg. Many even arrived early, so the music actually started on Thursday and carried over into Sunday. The campground in Brandenburg filled up in a matter of days, and tent and overflow spaces were reserved at Otter Creek and other campgrounds.

“The attendees enjoyed the area so much that we received many requests to repeat the get together next year,” said Johnson.

The jams are a social event with an emphasis on fellowship and camaraderie. Though there are public performances of traditional music, and plenty of them, the primary interest in the jams is sharing songs and playing techniques with one another.

Back by popular demand, next year’s jam session is scheduled for June 17 and June 18.