By the time dawn had broken Sunday, Merrie Woodward knew there would be a problem.
The skies were gray, the rain steady on Sunday—not the kind of weather that encourages people to come out for an outdoor bluegrass jam at an old farmstead. And she was right. Sunday’s event at Dickson-Murst Farm on Montgomery’s west side drew very few people. At any given time, there were only a few dozen on hand.
The rain even kept the musicians away, at least for a while. The jam featured members of the Northern Illinois Bluegrass Association, and many of them arrived late, unpacking their instruments in the big barn around 11:30 a.m. Workshops scheduled throughout the afternoon were sparsely attended as well.
Woodward said the annual bluegrass jam is usually a big event on the farm. Last year’s jam brought out about 600 people, she said, and money from food sales topped $900. That money goes to the Dickson-Murst Farm Partners, a group of about 25 volunteers dedicated to saving and preserving the century-old 4.5-acre farmstead.
In 2006, the allowed the Conservation Foundation to buy the property, saving it from the bulldozers. The Huntington Chase subdivision was built up around it, but the farmstead remains, thanks to the work of the Partners. They hold four events each year—of which the bluegrass jam is the fourth—to raise the money needed to keep the buildings in good shape.
“Our first event was Day at the Farm, in 2006,” Woodward said. “This is the first time we have had rain (on an event day) since then.”
The event did attract acoustic musicians of all stripes. Howard Johnson, a guitarist from Chicago, conducted a small workshop on jam etiquette, in which he talked about getting along with other musicians while playing. He handed out a sheet with the “Ten Jammandments” written on it, and drew from his experience running a jam in Chicago for the past five years.
“Bluegrass musicians tend to be inclusive,” Johnson said. “My personal rule is, leave people feeling good about themselves.”
It was tough to feel good about the turnout, however. Woodward said it would not be a financial catastrophe for the Partners, but she was still disappointed.
“Rain’s gonna happen,” she said. “Whatever we can salvage out of it, we will.”