13th Annual Park Slope Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Jamboree Tonight

After taking a two-year hiatus, the neighborhood folk fest is back on for this weekend at The Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture on Prospect Park West .


More than 700 musicians and fans of old-time and bluegrass music will come to Park Slope on Friday night for The 13th Annual Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Jamboree

But, this year should have been the 15th annual festival. Two years ago the festival's co-founder, Tina Aridas, got cancer and passed away last year.

"My partner died, that's part of the tragedy of the whole thing," co-founder and musician James Reams said, explaining that his music partner and girlfriend of 15 years, Tina Aridas passed away Feb 2011. "2010 was going to be the 13th annual but when she got cancer two months before we had to cancel the whole thing."

Reams, who is the front man for James Reams & The Barnstormers and started the Bluegrass Jamboree 15 years ago with Aridas, has lived in Park Slope since the 1980s but moved out of the neighborhood in order to cope with her death.

But now with the Jamboree back up and running again after a two-year hiatus, Reams is excited.

"This is a real triumph for me to come back," Reams said. "We're going to give [Aridas] a plaque that will go to the Bluegrass Museum in Kentucky. This year is going to celebrate her."

The Lifetime Achievement Award will be given in memory of Aridas for helping spread the word about bluegrass and old-time music.

To celebrate traditional American music Reams has organized two nights of live bluegrass and folk music at The Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture on Prospect Park West starting on Friday, Sept. 28 at 8 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 29, from 12:30 to 10:30 p.m., will be a full day of activities, including workshops in banjo, fiddle, harmony singing, and more, plus all-day jamming and an evening concert featuring many fine performers.

James Reams & The Barnstormers, who has garnered nominations from the International Bluegrass Music Association, will kickoff the Jamboree on Friday. Reams’ group is internationally known for being a band that plays bluegrass music the old-fashioned way, reminiscent of the genre’s founders — Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs.

"It's going to be a crazy, emotional thang,” Reams said, "while we show our love for [Aridas]."

He said Aridas was "everything to me" — a music partner and a girlfriend who he lived with for almost two decades.

And for the first time since 2009, Reams is going to start the annual Jamboree again with artists and bands like David Laibman, who is one of the "founding figures" of ragtime guitar, The ReJewvenators with Alan Kaufman and Marc Horowitz, Lightning in the East, a powerhouse string band that puts a spin on traditional Southern Appalachian music, Hell's Kitchen Country and more.

Dizzy's Diner will provide the food and The Clay Pot will also sponsor the event. The Clay Pot will provide the "Brown Jug” award, which is given each year to a person who has made a significant and continuing contribution to old-time or bluegrass music in the Northeast.

During the two-day event, musicians will gather in informal groups in the century-old meeting house and the gardens surrounding the landmark building between First and Second streets for informal jam sessions. 

"This is what everyone wants in life — to celebrate the life of the living and the passed," Reams said. "It's a tribute to what she's done."

The 13th Annual Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Jamboree starts Friday, Sept. 27 at 8 p.m. admission is $10.

Saturday’s activities run from 12:30 to 10:30 PM (admission $4) and features workshops, all-day jamming (with acoustic instruments only: acoustic guitars, fiddles, mandolins, banjos, Dobros, upright basses, dulcimers, autoharps, harmonicas, etc.), and evening concerts.


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