Bob “Bluegrass” Jeannin, 80, knows his Bluegrass history, but not from reading books or doing internet searches. A dedicated player and fan of the folksy American roots music, Jeannin was around during the genre’s beginnings and was immediately hooked.
“Bluegrass was what I liked before they even called it Bluegrass,” Jeannin said.
He used to play professionally, still tinkers with the mandolin on occasion, and is very active in the Soggy Bottom Bluegrass Bunch, a club that meets at the Sertoma Youth Ranch in southeastern Hernando County on a regular basis.
So he was the ideal spokesman and media contact for the 34th Annual Thanksgiving Bluegrass Festival scheduled for November 28 through November 30.
“I used to play but I’m not that good anymore,” said Jeannin, who is vice president for Sertoma Youth Ranch Inc. ” … I most recently played the mandolin but I played guitar from the time I was 12.”
He heard the music and liked it but didn’t see it played until 1948 when he took a bus into the city to watch a band perform.
“I was too young to drive,” he said. “I thought, ‘OK, that’s how they do it’ and I didn’t forget it.”
Sertoma Youth Ranch, an 80-acre wooded retreat that serves as a backdrop to several annual musical events, has been the location of the Thanksgiving Bluegrass Festival since its original debut. Now it is one of the most anticipated events at the Ranch, bringing as many as 1500 enthusiasts for the three day music festival.
Betty Frantz, the Vice President of Membership of Sertoma Youth Ranch Inc., said the Bluegrass Festival is the only one that the local Sertoma Club organizes. The rest are sourced out to other clubs and organizations. Frantz and her husband, Walt, Sergeant of Arms for Sertoma Youth Ranch inc. and kitchen manager, participate each year as main organizers and patrons of a genre of music they love.
The festival will feature popular bands including Marty Raybon & Full Cicle, David Peterson & 1946, Nothing Fancy, Remington Ryde, Stevens Family, Spinney Brothers, Larry Gillis Band and Generations Bluegrass.
In addition, break out jam sessions will occur throughout the three-day festival. Thanksgiving turkey will be served (guests should bring a covered dish) on Thursday and full amenities will be available to campers including electric and water hookups and full bath house and bathroom facilities.
The cost of the event is $70 for advanced tickets or $75 at the gate (Thursday through Saturday). Single day tickets are $12 for Thursday, $35 for Friday and Saturday. Youth, ages 10-16 can pay $12 for the four days or $3 per day. Children 9 and under are admitted free.
Primitive camping and parking is included with admission and Water & Electric hookup is available for $69 from 8 a.m. Thursday until 3 p.m. Sunday.
Carl and Joan Noelt planned to attend and drove out to Sertoma Youth Ranch ahead of time to get acquainted with the facility. Visiting from Minnesota, they were self-proclaimed Bluegrass addicts.
“We love Bluegrass,” Joan Noelt said, “and we really love Nothing Fancy.”
The couple follows the band’s schedule which is how they found out about Sertoma’s 34th Thanksgiving Bluegrass Festival. They planned to set up their motor home on Wednesday.
Bluegrass is big business for Sertoma and a good crowd is expected at this year’s festival. It is one of the ranch’s main income sources to keep things running through the year.
According to the International Bluegrass Music Association, Bluegrass history dates back to the Monroe Brothers who were one of the most popular duet teams of the 1920s. The brothers broke up in 1938 to pursue individual bands. Bill Monroe, who was a native of Kentucky, the Bluegrass State, named his new band Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys.
Different from traditional country music bands at that time, Bluegrass became known for “hard driving energy, utilizing traditional acoustic instruments and featuring highly distinctive vocal harmonies.”
For more information about the Thanksgiving Bluegrass Festival, including band lineup schedules and other information about the facility, visit sertomayouthranch.org.