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Bill Monroe’s Rosine & Jerusalem Ridge

A Warm Welcome to Calloway & Graves Counties


Bill Monroe’s Rosine & Jerusalem Ridge

There are lots of famous Kentuckians. But try telling the folks in Ohio County, and particularly in Rosine, Horse Branch, or Beaver Dam, that Bill Monroe is not the most famous, and you’ll probably get an argument, maybe even a fight.

They may have a good point.

It was Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys who strolled onto the Grand Ole Opry stage back in 1939 and captivated the audience, and then the world, with a new kind of music. That memorable performance led to a cult-like following that soon had the nation clamoring to see and hear him play. If that was not possible, they tuned their box-style radios to Nashville’s WSM and the Opry each Saturday night.

It didn’t take long before Monroe was being called the ‘Father of Bluegrass Music.’ Well on his way to becoming a legend, his style of music and his one-of-a-kind technique with which he played his mandolin did what few musicians could do.

His crossover style and sound became popular with music lovers everywhere, and today he remains the only person ever to be inducted into three Halls of Fame: Bluegrass, Country, and Rock and Roll. And to further add credence to just how famous he is, in 1995 President Clinton presented Monroe with the National Medal of the Arts.

Even though Monroe died in 1996, his music lives on and if the folks in Rosine have their say, it will be around for years to come.

Bluegrass fans consider a visit to Jerusalem Ridge and the old Monroe Homeplace that sits nearby a pilgrimage. Born September 13, 1911, just outside of Rosine, the National Historic Site home is on five of the farm’s original 1,000 acres. Restored in 2001, today the home is a shrine to the Monroe family and the music they played.

“It was Bill’s mother on her fiddle who played the first music little Bill ever heard,” says Campbell Mercer, executive director of the Monroe Foundation. “And a few years later he came under the tutorage of Pendleton Vandiver, his mother’s brother. It was Uncle Pen’s influence that lit the fire in young Bill to be a performer.”

Family photos and musical instruments are there, but it’s the tour guides who bring it all to life. They spin their stories from a firsthand account, as most knew Monroe or grew up just across the ridge from him.

Just down the road is the Rosine Barn Jamboree. It started out at the Rosine General Store some 20 years ago, and today it is one of those places that outgrew the store and moved into an adjacent barn. A stage gives locals a forum to carry on the legacy. Fiddles, mandolins, guitars, and banjos are the norm here each Friday from 7 p.m-11 p.m., rain or shine. In the spring and fall, lawn chairs are encouraged.

Mercer points out that the Jerusalem Ridge Festival, slated this year for October 2-5, is one of the largest bluegrass festivals in the country.

“Last year we drew 12,000 people from 46 states and 13 foreign countries,” he says. “It’s a big deal around here.”

DESTINATIONS

Bill Monroe Homeplace
6210 Hwy. 62 East
Rosine, KY 42349
(270) 274-9181
www.jerusalemridgefestival.org
Free admission. Open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday 1-5 p.m. Winter hours: Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sunday 1-4 p.m. Take Western Kentucky Parkway to Exit 75; take 231 North, turn right at Highway 62 E, go approximately 6 miles, turn right at sign: Jerusalem Ridge/Bill Monroe Birthplace.

Bluegrass Motorcycle Museum
5608 U.S. 231 North
Hartford, KY 42347
(270) 274-7764
Free admission. Display of vintage American motorcycles from 1906 to present. Open Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday
10 a.m.-3 p.m., appointments preferred.

Rosine Barn Jamboree
8205 Blue Moon of Kentucky Highway
Rosine, KY 42349
(270) 274-5552
Admission free. Every Friday night at 7 p.m.;
all year except the last two Fridays in December.

Fordsville Depot and Museum
Downtown Fordsville
(270) 316-5454
Built in 1903, railroad history. Admission free. Open Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; 2-4 p.m., Sunday.

Ohio County Museum
415 Mulberry Street
Hartford, KY 42347
(270) 298-3444
Admission free. Open May-October, Wednesday-Friday, 1-4 p.m. Historic log cabin, one-room school, genealogy library.

Rosine Fall Festival
Second weekend in September
(270) 274-9062

Fordsville Days
September 11-13
(270) 276-5656

Jerusalem Ridge Festival
October 2-5
(270) 274-9181
www.jerusalemridgefestival.org

Gary P. West is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.

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A Warm Welcome to Calloway & Graves Counties

The western part of Kentucky is often referred to as the Western Waterlands, and for good reason. It’s home to four rivers–the Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee, and Mississippi, plus two large man-made lakes.

Together, Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley make up one of the largest man-made waterways in the United States. The two lakes are connected by a free-flowing canal, which provides more than 600 miles of round-trip cruising.

Kenlake State Resort Park sits on the western shore of Kentucky Lake near Aurora. Quiet relaxation just might be their number-one offering. However, for those who have more than rest in mind, there’s a tennis center with indoor and outdoor courts, hiking trails, and a nine-hole golf course. The cabins here, with their screened porches, are the perfect place to sit back and read a book.

But there’s much more to western Kentucky than rivers and lakes. A trek to this area of the state offers an assortment of things to see and do that are in towns not necessarily on a river or lake.

Towns like Murray and Mayfield don’t sit at the edge of any waterways. They’re in the proximity, mind you, but so is every other town in this area of the state.

Murray, in Calloway County, is one of those little/big towns that are as pretty as a picture. In fact, the folks who live there are quick to share a quote from a national magazine: “Murray is as picturesque as a scene in a Norman Rockwell painting.”

It’s a college town, dotted with several little eateries, wonderful boutique shops, and a year-round community theater group, said to be among the oldest in the state. Many of the plays are performed in a 1907 train depot reconstructed in one of the city’s parks.

One of the big draws to the area is the small town of Hazel. Known for its antique shops, it is western Kentucky’s oldest and largest antique shopping district.

If you’ve been to Mayfield lately, raise your hand. Just in case you haven’t, it is one of those unexpected delightful surprises. It’s a place that almost makes you say to whoever is listening, “Why haven’t I been here before?”

Visitors can stop off at the Edana Locus Mansion, which serves as the local tourism and chamber office. And then there is a most unusual sight, one you will probably not see anywhere else. Wooldridge Monuments in Maplewood Cemetery is referred to as “The Strange Processions that Never Move.” It consists of 18 life-sized statues grouped around the tomb of Henry G. Wooldridge, a local horse trader who moved to Mayfield in 1840.

Perhaps the most notable Graves County event is the annual Fancy Farm Picnic, held the first Saturday of each August. The locals like to say,
“If a Kentucky politician doesn’t speak at the Fancy Farm Picnic, he doesn’t have a prayer come election time.” The annual gathering began in 1834, was suspended during the Civil War, and resumed in 1880.

DESTINATIONS

Ice Cream Festival
Murray, September 12-13
Calloway County Parks & Recreation
(270) 762-0344

Western Kentucky Highland Games
Murray, September 12-14
Competitive games, food, and pipe bands.
(270) 444-9453

Gourd Festival
Mayfield, September 20
Nationally recognized artists, barbecue cook-off, and blues concert. Ghost walk at Maplewood Cemetery.

Photography Exhibit
Murray, September 17-28
Murray Tourism Office

City Wide Yard Sale
Murray, September 20
More than 70 participants; out-of-towners can sell too.

Arts on the Square
Murray, September 27
Murray Art Guild
(270) 753-4059

Hazel Days Celebration
Hazel, October 4
More than 500 antique dealers.
(800) 651-1603
www.hazel-kentucky.com

Little Spooky Spooks
Kenlake State Resort Park, October 25
Celebrate Halloween with storytelling, costumes, crafts, candy, refreshments, spooky animals; 7-9 p.m., $3 per person.

Western Kentucky Fiddle Festival
Murray, November 7-8
Lovett Auditorium, area bluegrass musicians competing for prizes.
(800) 651-1603

For more tourism information, contact: Mayfield Tourism Commission, 201 East College Street, (270) 247-6101 or online at www.mayfieldtourism.com.; Murray Tourism Commission, 805 North 12th Street, (800) 651-1603 or online at www.tourmurray.com; or Kenlake State Resort Park, 542 Kenlake Road, Hardin, KY, (270) 474-2211, (800) 325-0143, or online at www.parks.ky.gov.

Gary P. West is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.

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