Burnin’ up with Fever!


By: Chris Fullerton

Sheridan, Indiana won’t quite be the same after this year’s annual “Sheridan Bluegrass Fever”, this much is fact. Kim Robbin’s post did recount some of the circumstances surrounding this year’s “Fever” concert series. However, I would like to expound on some other facts for your readers if I may.

It’s true that this year the “Fever” had its share of problems and for the most part they aren’t anything most venues often experience in the pursuit of Bluegrass prosperity, except for the fire. Perhaps seven will truly be a lucky number for the Annual concert series based on the folklore of a Virginia born abolitionist named George Boxley.

This was only the sixth year of this series and is loosely based on folklore about Boxley’s love for music in his 1853 cabin on the hill on the southern edge of his 80acre 1850 claim here in Adams Township. Boxley himself had more than his share of troubles here even losing his youngest son Benjamin here who was killed by a tree that fell during a severe Thunderstorm. However much like George Boxley, it’s the people of Sheridan and their will and determination that will be remembered far more than the fire itself. At least none of them are being chased by bounty hunters like George was!

They are however, forging a wonderful tradition of Bluegrass using the beautiful Sheridan Veteran’s Park in the shadows of the trees surrounding the wonderfully restored Boxley cabin on the hill here. I am personally grateful to all those who work so hard to make Bluegrass events like the “Sheridan Bluegrass Fever” a reality year after year often with very little capitol and little more than determination. There are so many good people behind the scenes that make these events work throughout our great Country that the minor setbacks like what happened on Saturday in downtown Sheridan, Indiana will likely be far overshadowed by the good that the music and people bring to these magical places of friends and family.

As to the fire itself, there were two officers that were initially overcome during the first few moments of the fire that did survive and there were nine fire departments that came to help fight this awful beast that tried it’s best to consume the small town and dampen it’s hardy spirit. It did not claim any lives thanks to the brave men and women of the local fire and law enforcement agencies on hand.

The weather that day had been spotty at best. There were severe thunderstorms during the morning hours that rapidly approached from the west and threatened to stop the festivities. As they came into western Indiana they lost energy and slowly fizzled into little more than drizzle over Sheridan itself.

The leadership at the festival kept everything on time despite numerous problems that morning besides the weather. There were artist workshops that morning given by Karl Shiflett and his Band members just as planned, and after those the “Thorntown Jammers” kept the beginnings of the crowds that were to follow entertained in the safety of the Sheridan Public Library adjacent to the park while we all watched the radar. As the time for the beginning of the festival approached, the storms had turned to little more than drizzle and people moved into the park area to pick their spot for the day as the time drew near.

The clouds soon parted and gave way to a beautiful and much cooler than normal day for Indiana in July. It’s true that one of the major acts was delayed by traffic problems, however management asked the Branded Bluegrass Band to keep playing until they arrived. This great band played for 90 minutes straight without so much as a single comment. One of the members of that great band is 84 year old Albert Swain, multi-award winning Indiana and Kentucky Fiddle Champ who himself worked over 15 years in the deep dark coal mines.

The concert went on as planned after that with the time to be easily made up later in the day. At a bit after six PM smoke began to fill the park and concert area during the set for Coffey Brothers and Mountain Sound band. Soon after, the festival’s management made the decision to move the crowd to a safer location upwind on the hill where Boxley’s cabin rests. Again the Branded Bluegrass Band picked up their instruments and began playing for the crowd and calmed everyone not much different than the band on the Titanic must have done.

Fire photos by: Steve Jackson

At that time Thick Black smoke began pouring through the concert areas where the vendors and people had been moments ago. Many would have been sickened and possibly overcome had it not been for the leadership that day and the safety of Boxley’s cabin on the hill. Soon, County Law Enforcement gave the order to end the concert for the day and empty the park in an orderly fashion.

Bluegrass people are the best in the world and they prove it at nearly every event I have the privilege to attend or emcee. I heard NO complaints from anyone as they all quietly and orderly proceeded to their cars to exit the park. Everyone understood, and no calls were made about money or refunds from any of that audience even though many had waited all day and some had just paid to see the great performances that were scheduled that evening. The bands were immediately paid just as promised even though there was little hope of recouping the expenses for the loss.

More than 24 hours later the park was still seeing smoke from the fire just south of there down Main Street in Sheridan. Fire officials have still not been able to get in there and determine the cause or bring down what remains of the structures. People from everywhere are offering to help with expenses and the Sheridan Historical Society along with the fantastic people of this great area are coming together to make #7 one to remember next year. I hope to see some of you from the stage next year in the Shadow of Boxley’s cabin!

The “Fixer” Chris Fullerton
Bluegrass Connection Show

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