The first official day of ROMP went smoothly according to officials at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum. In fact, the staging lots, which held hundreds of RVs and campers waiting to enter Yellow Creek Park Wednesday morning, were cleared in record time.
“We got them in a little faster than last year,” said Hall of Fame Marketing Director Carly Smith. “Our lots were clear by 10 a.m., which is about an hour ahead of schedule.”
Smith said Hall of Fame officials began offering the staging areas five years ago at nearby Yellow Creek Baptist Church and Eastview Elementary School as the festival grew in popularity.
“Gates open at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, but what we found was that people were stopping on the highway to not lose their place in line,” Smith said. “It became a safety concern.”
RVs and campers continued to trickle in throughout Wednesday and Smith said she won’t have an estimated count on festival goers until later in the festival.
Smith said working with the same vendors and volunteers year after year is the main reason setting up for ROMP runs so smoothly.
“It takes a village, basically, to build this festival,” Smith said, adding that 225 people are volunteering their time this year. “It shows how much people want to be a part of our event.”
Festival organizers learned just before opening day that headliner Jeff Austin would not be able to make ROMP due to a medical emergency. Austin died shortly after cancelling his appearance. Smith said Austin, who was a founding member of Yonder Mountain String Band and played at ROMP last year, was set to play with The Del McCoury Band on Friday night.
“As soon as we knew he was hospitalized, of course our thoughts first go with his family, friends and fans, but as a festival we have to shift gears and come up with a back up plan,” Smith said.
Smith said the Larry Keel Experience will take the spot with The Del McCoury Band.
Smith said about a month ago it was up in the air if Sam Bush, another headliner, would be able to make the festival. Bush was hospitalized with a medical event, but Smith said the “pillar of bluegrass” bounced back, playing the famous venue at Telluride last weekend.
“He definitely wanted to play ROMP,” Smith said. “Sam thinks of ROMP as his hometown festival since he is from Bowling Green. He is a star at ROMP, a crowd favorite for sure.”
Wednesday’s late afternoon and early evening thunderstorms caused some delays in the first musical performances of the festival, but rain is something with which ROMP fans and organizers are very familiar. Although the rain is expected to continue into Thursday, the weekend is forecasted to offer perfect outdoor concert weather.