La Grange Bluegrass & Railroad Festival

Guernsey Brothers to bring
bluegrass talent to La Grange event

Jeff, Ivan Guernsey are well-known
in southern Indiana

LA GRANGE, Ky. (October 2014) – Jeff and Ivan Guernsey are a brotherly duo and each respected in the bluegrass music genre for his individual talents. Jeff, a fiddler, and Ivan, an instrument maker, are well-known for bringing bluegrass to the forefront of the industry.
Hailing from southern Indiana, Jeff has toured with such big name country music superstars as Vince Gill and Steve Wariner. He now teaches bluegrass at Jeff Guernsey’s Conservatory of Music in Jeffersonville, Ind.
Ivan, 65, has built amazing resonator guitars for notable musicians such as Mike Auldridge, Stacy Phillips and Jerry Douglas. From his workshop in Scottsburg, Ind., he has crafted what some label a dobro, a guitar held flat on the lap and played by sliding a steel bar up and down the strings. Through patience and meticulousness, Ivan set the bar high for his hand crafted resonator guitars.

Train Ride

Photo by Helen McKinney

A children’s train ride is part of
the family activities in downtown
La Grange, Ky., during the
Bluegrass & Railroad Festival.

Both brothers came to enjoy the bluegrass sounds of Flatt and Scruggs and were enticed to learn more about this traditional music. Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs played the type of guitar Ivan learned to build after teaching himself to play while listing to the recordings of Flatt and Scruggs.
The Guernsey Brothers had the honor of performing at the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival to supplement the University of Indiana’s exhibit, “New Vernacular,” which highlighted traditional instrument builders.
The Guernsey Brothers are part of this year’s musical lineup for the La Grange Bluegrass & Railroad Festival. Scheduled for Oct. 10-11, the festival lineup includes music, Railroad Festival Pageant, Cardboard Box Train Parade, Club Car Invitational Cornhole tournament, kids’ miniature train ride, Toy and Train Swap Meet at the YMCA Community Center and farmer’s market. Most activities are centered around the Oldham County Courthouse Square and the La Grange Railroad Museum, located at 412 E. Main St.
The museum is operated by members of the Ohio Valley Railroad Historic Foundation Inc. Activities on Saturday include a Great Train Robbery at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., country and Christian country music, dining car and caboose tours. The museum, located in the former train depot, will be open from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
On Friday, music will start at 6 p.m. Saturday’s festival hours are 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
“We’ll have a large train layout in the basement of the museum,” said Bob Widman, the foundation’s chairman.
“The (Oldham County) chamber recently moved out of the upstairs of the depot,” Widman said. His organization is waiting on word from Fiscal Court to move into the upstairs space and display its memorabilia.
Once given the go-ahead, the foundation will be able to move display cases upstairs, open a gift shop and be open full time. “We have an $80,000 HO layout that has been donated to put in the upstairs space, but is in storage right now,” said Widman.
New to this year’s festival are “the addition of free workshops,” said Bill Schneider, event chairman. Held at Coffee Roasters in La Grange, these workshops will be educational as well as entertaining. Jeff Guernsey will be leading one of the workshops.
“This is the fifth year for the festival,” said Schneider. “It is the second year to include bluegrass music. The music portion was so well received last year.”
He said that when searching for a musical aspect to add to the festival, “bluegrass music and Kentucky are practically synonymous.”
Schneider credited the festival to be the brainchild of Oldham County resident and businessman, Jim Zimmerman, who is not as involved as usual this year due to personal commitments. Discover Downtown La Grange organizes the event.
“Last year’s festival was very successful,” said Nancy Griffin, executive director of Discover Downtown La Grange. “The festival audience grows each year. It is for all ages.”
She said the Cardboard Box Parade is a huge success with the kids each year. “Last year, the live train came through town at the exact time the kids hit the Main Street sidewalk. The train blew its horn to honor the kids.”
Griffin noted that, “La Grange is famous for its street running train. Visitors from around the world come to photograph the train and the town. It’s a natural venue for a family fun day filled with trains, kids parades, cornhole, cowboy gunfights, and bluegrass music.”
Many people are fascinated with the trains that constantly run through downtown La Grange on a daily basis. In the 1850s, the Louisville & Frankfort Railroad Co.  began construction; fortunately for the town of La Grange, it was located on the main route. As interest in river travel waned, the railroad became the center attraction, bringing new life to the tiny town.
Organizers of the La Grange Bluegrass & Railroad Festival say they hope to carry on the strong railroad heritage that permeates La Grange. There is a whole new generation that is not aware of the significance of the railroad and its role in the county’s history.
For Schneider, the goal of the festival is “to see continued growth, and I’m optimistic that it will be one of the largest festivals in Oldham County.”

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