Archived Festival Reports

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This is a collection of articles that have appeared on our festival pages as an assessment of how our festivals here at Bean Blossom turned out.

Our First Festival Was A Success June 18th-21st, 1998
Our First Jam Fest Was A Success July 31st-Aug. 1st, 1998
Our 24th Hall of Fame & Uncle Pen Day Festival Was A Success October 9th-11th, 1998
2nd Annual Bean Blossom Jam Fest July 30th-31st, 1999
1st Annual Bean Blossom Gospel Jubilee Aug. 20th-22nd, 1999
38th Annual Bill Monroe Memorial Bluegrass Festival June 13th-19th, 2004


This was the first festival I’ve been to at Bean Blossom, and a good time was had by all. There weren’t many problems and everyone seemed to get along great.

It rained for much of the week before the festival, and many campers had to be pulled into their spots by tractor, because of the mud. Luckily the rain stayed away for most of the week-end. It did rain on Thursday night after the last show of the evening and a little on Sunday morning. Many say one of the things that helped the festival was all the gravel we had hauled in and all the straw we spread on the muddy areas.

Starting from the gate, the shuttle bus continuously circled the grounds, going through the concession area to the rear of the camp grounds and back. At night the shuttle bus was a beautiful sight, coming down “Hippie Hill” with many passengers getting on and off at many places along the way. We had several favorable comments about the air conditioned restrooms and shower facilities, and the museum and gift shop were very busy all week-end.

Thursday evening many came to the barbeque dinner. It’s been said that for a Thursday here, we had one of the biggest crowds in many years. Everything went smoothly for the sunset jam on Friday evening, many of the entertainers there that day participated along with many fans. There were numerous jam sessions throughout the week-end as well. Saturday there were so many people, cars were parked way up into the front of the park and up on “Hippie Hill.” Sunday there was still quite a crowd of people watching the shows. After the last show on Sunday, Dwight and his staff of family and friends were very tired but also happy, reflecting on the success of our first festival.

Thanks again for helping to make our first festival as successful as it was. We plan on keeping Bill’s vision here going as long as we can. Please come again and bring a friend.” TROY PENNIE


It caused goose bumps – it was eerie! – the sound of Bill Monroe’s mandolin coming from a live performance on the stage of his beloved Bean Blossom. But it was the amazing artistry of Mike Compton re-creating the Monroe sound while accompanying master entertainerJohn Hartford at the 1st Annual Bean Blossom Jam Fest, July 31 and August 1.

Two days of perfect, fall-like weather with bright sunshine and blue sky highlited the beautiful place that Bean Blossom has become under the management of the Dillman family of Peru, Indiana.

Dwight Dillman, a former Blue Grass Boy, and now the owner of the famed festival site is determined to keep alive the magic of bluegrass music echoing through the tall trees and hills of Bean Blossom, Indiana in memory of his former boss, the Father of Blue Grass Music.

If audience response and comments is any gauge, he is succeeding as most of those who left after the Jam Fest volunteered comments expressing an interest in returning for future performances.” – JIM PEVA


Dwight relates well with people – he makes them feel good. As the new owner of the Bean Blossom festival grounds, he doesn’t spend much time in his office, but rather, on a golf cart. With his walkie-talkie in his hand, he is out greeting campers and fans and asking them if he can do anything for them. His son, Dan, and another boy make the rounds with a little trailer filled with free firewood for campers. Every effort is expended to make the fans leave the festival in a happy mood.

Dedication doesn’t escape Dwight’s notice either. You don’t have to be around WM Bentley Bentley very long to realize that he loves the Bean Blossom festivals. He has worked long and hard on the festival grounds for many years, doing every job from mowing, parking campers and all the rest of the unlimited number of jobs that must be done. He knows all the regular Bean Blossom fans by their first names and they know him, too, because he is a true ambassador of good will and bluegrass music. When Mr. Bentley suggested that the weeds and brush be cleared from the edge of the lake so Bill Monroe’s old walking trail could be restored for the fans to use, Dwight agreed, and had signs prepared for the “Monroe/Bentley” walking trail. An attractive archway entrance to the trail was constructed near the museum, and a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Saturday morning, attended by Jimmy Martin, Mr. Jackson, the show MC, and others. Little Dana Dillman, dressed to the hilt in a flowered dress, cut the ribbon, and Dwight and WM Bentley were the first through the arch. You could see the pride in Bentley’s eyes – he has become a celebrity at Bean Blossom – and his recognition is well deserved. A jam session involving Dwight, Derek, and Myron Dillman, Vernon Derrick, Talmadge Law and many others followed the ribbon cutting.

The highlite of the festival was the induction of Jimmy Martin into the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Hall of Fame following Jimmy’s afternoon show on Saturday. Many notable speakers participated and the Sunny Mountain boys presented Jimmy with a beautiful portait. Jimmy said it was the biggest day in his life.

All of the bands performed very well. I would imagine that playing on stage at Bean Blossom for the first time is very much like a country artist’s first performance on the Grand Ole Opry, and Bean Blossom is to bluegrass what the Ryman is to country music.

All in all, the 24th Annual Bill Monroe Bluegrass Hall of Fame & Uncle Pen Days festival was a success. The crowd equaled, and maybe surpassed that of the June festival. Nobody put any suggestions in the suggestion box, which probably means that not too many people had complaints and that most were pleased. The weather was perfect and the natural beauty of the festival grounds, steeped in Bill Monroe tradition, and enhanced by the many improvements that the Dillmans have made, makes Bean Blossom the “mecca” of bluegrass fans.” – JIM PEVA.

2nd Annual Bean Blossom Jam Fest

107. That’s one hundred and seven DEGREES – registered on an outdoor thermometer at Morgantown, IN, just north of Bean Blossom on Friday, July 30. TV newscasts warned people to stay out of the heat. And they did. They stayed away from Bean Blossom in droves – but the small but enthusiastic audience who did attend were treated to an outstanding lineup of talent.

Had a nice visit with Alan O’Bryant and Roland White at our campsite – old friends from festivals and shows long past. The Nashville BG Band’s performances always leave me with the notion that I have never heard music played better – same thing happend this year. Traditions run strong at Bean Blossom.

Despite the heat, our campfire never went out and we used it for cooking this time more than usual. Dwight Dillman, an early riser, would come by at 6:00 a.m. and feed the glowing coals with a new stick of firewood or two, and we banked the fire at bedtime with a couple of beech logs and it would last all night. Woodsmoke is part of the experience.

Met fellow-lister Nelson Hopwood for the first time, and MaryE was there again, taking pictures & staying in one of the log cabins complete with AC.

I had the pleasure of seeing Rhonda Vincent perform for the first time and was tremendously impressed. What a voice, and what a trouper! I predict great success for Rhonda in bluegrass music.

John Cowan closed the festival to a small but enthusiastic crowd who demanded four curtain calls. WM Bentley, a hard-core bluegrass man, commented the next day, “Goin’ to have to call the veterinarian – that last show drove all the squirrels crazy”.

In summary, another great lineup at Bean Blossom – Bill Monroe’s favorite place – sponsored by one of the greatest promoters of bluegrass music in the business, but who unfortunately, has no control over the weather.” – JIM PEVA

1st Annual Bean Blossom Gospel Jubilee

The Gospel Jubilee featured a great variety of Gospel Music, from the beautiful voice of Jolena Foster, who provided her own musical accompanyment, to the closing act, the Crabb Family, with ten talented performers on stage at once. One of the highlights was a piece by the Steeles concerning the obligation of parents to children in this modern age of temptation. With each day’s program preceeded by a church service, the Jubilee provided a meaningful experience for the Christian believer.” – JIM PEVA

38th Annual Bill Monroe Memorial Bluegrass Festival

OK, here goes — these 76 year old bones take a while to recuperate from the big event. We had some rain at the beginning of the festival, but the last few days were perfect. Of course, the campfire kept burning through it all. About half way through the festival this year, Tim Dillman and I hit upon an absolute gourmet delight — thick sliced baloney (about >3/4 inch), grilled over the fire with jowl bacon, made into a sandwich with mayo & sliced tomato, crisp bacon, and, (as Jimmy Martin says), a “big ole slice of onion-head,” on an onion bun. It was so good that Wallace Boswell and I had one again for breakfast on Sunday after the festival was over.

The festival this year started on Sunday and ended on Saturday, so it was a 7-day affair. This seemed to work well, as the last day, traditionally a Sunday, has always been going home day, with only a small crowd left to watch the shows.

As usual, I didn’t go to many of the shows, but spent most of the time at my campsite, visiting with old friends. Tim Dillman insisted that I go to the CherryHolmes family show, which I did, and I wasn’t disappointed. Super-talents all, this family band is glued together by the rock-solid bass playing of Jerry, the father, who does it as well as anybody I have ever heard. Their vocals and instrumentals are great, and they range from high energy traditional bluegrass to absolutely beautiful a cappella harmony. If this band does not reach national prominence soon, it will surprise me. Maybe they already have.

I had to come home on Friday for a funeral home visit for a deceased friend, and while I was home, I checked my email. I had a message from Saburo Watanabe Inoue in Japan, saying a friend of his was at the Bean Blossom festival and he hoped I would meet him and make him welcome. When I got back, Sam Jackson made an announcement from the stage, trying to locate this man, to no avail, but the next day we did get together for a nice visit and I discovered that Mr. Tatsuo Arita, a pharmacist in Japan, and also a show booker, was the man who was responsible, in 1957, for bringing the first bluegrass shows to Japan. So the Japanese/Bean Blossom relationship has come full circle — from the appearance of the Bluegrass 45 band at Bean Blossom in 1971 to the first visit to Bean Blossom by the man who had introduced bluegrass music to the Japanese people. Mr. Arita and his two friends seemed to enjoy themselves and they were able to warm themselves by the campfire on Saturday evening, which was unusually cool.

Jimmy Martin may be a controversial character, but there is absolutely no question about him being a real trouper. Jimmy is suffering from cancer of the bladder and the after effects of chemo and radiation treatment. He has lost weight and strength but when he took the stage on Saturday night, he was the same old Jimmy Martin and he had the audience eating out of his hand. He put on a great show and was on stage for most of the hour and fifteen minute slot. His special guest, LeRoy Troy, performed his banjo monkeyshines for an appreciative audience with Jimmy advising him afterward how Uncle Dave Macon would have done the numbers. Of course, LeRoy doesn’t need any advice about that subject. Jimmy earned the respect of everybody for his “gutsy” efforts to overcome his physical ailments and to put on an entertaining show. Jimmy’s band was really “cracking” Saturday night. On the morning after his show, Jimmy was out and about with Dwight Dillman, as usual, and he visited our campsite, posed for pictures, and then he and LeRoy and several others went to the traditional squirrel and rabbit breakfast up on Hippie Hill, hosted by Jack Davis.

I had an opportunity during the week to visit with many of my old cronies, including Raymond Huffmaster, Roger Smith, James Monroe, Kenny Dawsey, Ray Smith, Bruce Nichols, Paul Nolan, and many other Bean Blossom regulars. I also had an opportunity to visit with Ernie Graves, a former Blue Grass Boy, who hadn’t been to Bean Blossom in years. He was amazed at the improvements that Dwight Dillman has made to the festival grounds.

Almost everybody who comes to Bean Blossom knows Dwight’s father, Myron Dillman, AKA “Mr. D.” During the early part of the festival, Vince Combs, the leader of the Shadetree Grass band, came to Myron’s camper at about 2:00 a.m., gaining entrance by sending Myron’s granddaughter, Dana, to the door. When Sharon Dillman opened the door, Vince and a whole herd of musicians burst in and serenaded Myron while he was in bed. The next morning Myron, while delivering ice, took two bags onto Vince’s bus, located Vince in a lower bunk, pulled the covers back and poured the contents of one bag all over the sleepy Vince. And he charged him for both bags of ice! Bean Blossom justice.

Another great Bean Blossom musical family reunion has come and gone. We wish you had been there, if you weren’t, but maybe next time. It is a wonderful place to remember the great Bill Monroe and carry on the traditions he started.” – JIM PEVA