By IVY HERRON
Rain or shine, this weekend's first "Bluegrass for Billy" festival at Saline City will be a musical celebration in honor of Billy Reed's life with the proceeds used to support The Bill Reed Music Scholarship Fund and the American Cancer Society.
"This will be like it was when Bill was alive and he would invite everyone over to play -- a big jam session at Bill's house," said Dave Amerman, the event organizer.
Characterized as a heart-of-gold "charmer" that encouraged others to share their musical talents with the world, Billy Reed touched many lives before his death in July 2005 from lung cancer.
"Bill was known to take a woman's hand, kiss it gently -- like in the movies -- and say, 'You're getting prettier every time I see you,'" Amerman said. "He was well-known and liked by people in the Saline City area and in the world of bluegrass music."
Thirteen bluegrass bands, including many musicians Bill performed with, have volunteered their time to come to the festival. Bands scheduled to perform include: Birch Creek; Louie Popejoy & The Heir of Bluegrass; Troubled Waters; Circle City Bluegrass Band; Dewey, Cheatem & How; Old City Trio; Taylor Ridge; Blueridge Country; Stoney Point; Salt Cured; Common Ground; Bunkum Valley Boys and Miller's Wheel and many other friends of Reed.
"Bill always encouraged others to use their talent, to get out their instruments and pick with him. I wouldn't have pursued music if it weren't for Bill's encouragement," Amerman said. "It is evident how well he was liked and how many people's lives he touched by the outpouring of support for this bluegrass festival."
All-American Tent and Awning, Inc. provided one of their largest tents to make sure the weather would not be a problem, WAXI FM-Gold 104.9 and 92.7FM CROC radio stations are scheduled to appear, WTWO-TV2 will broadcast the weather live from the festival and A+ Printing helped deter the cost of printing shirts for the festival.
A raffle -- for an Epiphone Guitar donated by Gibson Guitars in Nashville, Tenn. -- and a silent auction will also be available during the day.
"These people knew what kind of man Bill was and they've gone out of their way to help organize this event in his memory," Amerman said. "I've never met a person who had anything bad to say about him.
With nimble fingers, Bill enjoyed playing string instruments like the bass guitar, guitar, mandolin and the banjo, but his love of music and people was his motivation to encourage people to better their lives through their talents.
Friends hope that spirit will live on through the creation of The Bill Reed Music Scholarship Fund. Students at Clay City High School will benefit from the scholarship first, but they hope the scholarship will grow and be able to encourage students involvement with music around the county in the future.
"I hope that this will become an annual event. I can't think of a better way to honor a man like Bill than with his very own bluegrass festival," Amerman said. "Bill would probably be upset about all the fuss over him, but I think he'd be proud and happy to see everyone together, playing and having a good time."