In April, the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum postponed ROMP indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

At the time, there was hope of moving the June 24-27 event to the fall.

But the pandemic is still holding on.

And Chris Joslin, the Hall of Fame’s executive director, said the festival that draws more than 25,000 people from several countries to Yellow Creek Park each summer is canceled for this year.

It is now scheduled to return on June 23-26, 2021.

Losing a year of ROMP is a blow to both the Hall of Fame and the community.

Joslin said ROMP accounts for about 15% of the Hall of Fame’s operating budget.

It also pumps somewhere between $1.6 million and $2.2 million into the local economy each year, he said.

That includes about $150,000 worth of goods and services that the Hall of Fame buys from local vendors.

“ROMP is an economic engine for the area,” Joslin said.

“In addition to the fundraising aspects of ROMP, it has become a great way for attendees to engage with the broader work of the Hall of Fame, including educational programming that has a tangible impact on our community throughout the year,” he said.

Joslin said, “This is very disappointing, but support for ROMP is strong and will ensure the long-term success of the festival.”

He said, “Most of the bands are eager to be part of ROMP. They’re giving us first right of refusal for those dates next year.”

Festivals in general have been hard-hit by the pandemic.

The website MusicFestivalWizard.com lists 21 bluegrass festivals that have been canceled into August.

“Bands are struggling this year, especially the mid-tier bands that depend on constant touring,” Joslin said. “The big festivals that we track are all pushing back to next year. People don’t feel confident about traveling this year.”

He said the Hall of Fame is “looking at doing things on our outdoor stage this year. But we’re waiting to see what happens with restrictions. There is no way to socially distance at festivals.”

The North Carolina Artist Relief Fund reported recently that 1,566 artists, including bluegrass musicians, reported losses of $2.3 million in income so far this year.

And the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Trust Fund board of trustees recently set aside up to $150,000 for pandemic crisis assistance and established an account specifically for COVID-19 Relief.

This year’s ROMP lineup was to have included Chris Thile’s American Public Media show “Live from Here,” Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers, The Devil Makes Three, Sam Bush, We Banjo 3, Mandolin Orange, Dan Tyminski, Town Mountain, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, Balsam Range, Front Country, Trout Steak Revival, Blue Highway, The Price Sisters and Giri & Uma Peters.

Three options for ticketsJoslin said people who bought advance tickets have three options.

He said they can transfer tickets to the 2021 festival, donate all or a portion of the ticket purchase to the Hall of Fame and get a tax deduction, or receive a full refund.

To choose an option, go to rompfest.com.

Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said, “ROMP is important to our community’s identity, as Owensboro continues to carve out a reputation as the Bluegrass Music Capital of The World.”

He said, “Although the event is tremendously important, thank goodness the success of the Hall of Fame is not tied solely to ROMP.”

Joslin said earlier, “It is fortunate that the Hall of Fame is much more diversified today than we were just a few years ago. While virtually everything is at a standstill for us currently, we entered into this crisis much stronger than we would have a few years ago.”

“ROMP will return and will continue to have a significant economic impact for our community,” Calitri said.

Kentucky tourism’s TV commercials this spring have featured shots of the Hall of Fame.

“I’m glad to see Kentucky Tourism embracing bluegrass music, and the Hall of Fame and Owensboro in particular, as part of our state’s identity alongside thoroughbred racing and bourbon,” Joslin said. “We can build on that.”

He said, “Although music will not play from the ROMP stage at Yellow Creek Park the last weekend of June, the show will go on virtually.”

Joslin said the Hall of Fame will feature video highlights from past ROMP performances on social media on June 24-27.

He said, “Thanks to our partnership with WKU Public Broadcasting, the past three years of ROMP have been captured and distributed on public television providing us with the content to create a virtual ROMP experience this year on our social media platforms.”

And Joslin said WNIN public radio in Evansville will also celebrate ROMP with a program highlighting performances and artist interviews from last year.

That two-hour show will be broadcast at 9 p.m. on June 26 on WNIN 88.3 FM.

Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301 klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301

klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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