AURORA — Three years ago, Lew Jetton was asked to save the longest-running music festival in Kentucky, Hot August Blues at Kenlake State Resort Park in Aurora.
With help from many of the friendships he has developed during a long career as a blues performer himself, the Fulton resident managed to do just that, doubling attendance in that time frame as the main promoter. The 2019 edition of the festival along Kentucky Lake was arguably his finest work yet as it featured some of blues’ biggest names, the perfect observance of the event’s 30th year.
However, Jetton knew this would not be a long-term gig for him, particularly with his time needing to be devoted more and more to his aging parents. So on Wednesday night and through a statement he posted on the social media site Facebook, Jetton announced he was leaving this role as promoter.
“I’m grateful more than proud,” Jetton said when reached Thursday morning. “I am very grateful to all of the folks who came out and supported us and I’m also grateful for the support we got from the park and community. It’s very stressful and nerve-wracking, especially when you’re using your own retirement (funds).
“When I first was asked (to become the promoter), the park was in the position that if I didn’t do it, that was going to be the end of it. Now, they told me this at the first of February three years ago, which is very late in the game, but we got on it, put a great team together and did it. I knew it was gong to a year-to-year thing, so I said, ‘OK, let’s just get through this first year, then we’ll see what happens from there.
“You always learn things and we did that and, by the second year, we were going pretty good, but then we realized that last year, our third year, was the 30th year, so we said, ‘Hey! We really can’t stop now,’ so we got through that third year and, after that, I looked at it and decided that it really needs somebody with deeper pockets than I’ve got that has the financial backing that is bigger than I was able to obtain.”
The 30th anniversary lineup, Jetton said, was the best in Hot August history. It included major blues acts such as guitar virtuosos Jonathon Long and Boscoe France, as well as Big Al & the Heavyweights, the Memphis All-Stars and blues sirens Reba Russell and Joanna Connor. They played at a packed Kenlake Amphitheater.
Jetton is a certified meteorologist and handled this role for several years at area TV stations WBBJ in Jackson, Tennessee and WPSD in Paducah. He still reports on the weather for the Bristol Broadcasting stable of radio stations in Paducah.
All along, he was honing his craft as a blues performer, and his outfit, Lew Jetton and 61 South, have performed alongside the biggest names in the genre. One thing he said he hopes will come from relinquishing the promoter’s role will be that he can return to the Aurora stage along with his band, as that has not been possible the past three years.
However, there is one thing he wants more than anything: for the right person or group to step to the plate and take the reins of the festival.
“What I’m really hoping for is that somebody can come in here and take it up another notch and I think somebody can,” he said.