Susan Matthews says she has always wondered why Ohio County didn’t have a place for people to gather together and enjoy music, like the Friday After 5 series in Owensboro. Instead of waiting for someone else to figure out the answer, she and her husband, Ricky decided to fix the problem themselves.
The Matthews have leased what used to be the Royal Oaks Golf Course in Ohio County and have begun turning it into the Kentucky Music Park.
Matthews said it all started with an idea to have a concert beside her office. She talked to Ron Peech, the current owner of the 72 acre golf course, about putting on a show in a lot next to her office at Bluegrass Regional Healthcare. According to Matthews, Peech had a better idea.
“He said, ‘There’s no parking. Why are you thinking about doing it there? Why don’t you do it here (meaning the golf course)?,’” Matthews said. “That’s how it all came about.”
Matthews doesn’t claim to have any special musical ability or talent, the Kentucky Music Park is about something that is missing in Ohio County and something that can be good for Ohio County.
“I know that the kids in the county and the people are craving something and I want to offer them something.”
Mathews is kicking off this new venture on June 15 with a free concert and she says that’s just the beginning.
“My goal is to have something going every weekend,” said Matthews. “It may not always be a free concert, but it will be some type of music event that people can afford to come to.”
While she thinks the Kentucky Music Park will be a great thing for the people of Ohio County, she is thinking beyond the county borders.
“I want this to be the go to place,” Matthews said. “I want people from Owensboro, Bowling Green and Evansville to come here.”
In July, the Kentucky Music Park will be hosting a Bluegrass festival called “Bluegrass on the Greens” from July 4-6. James Monroe, Bill Monroe’s son, will be the headliner on the first two days and he will tell stories about his life and lead a tour of the Bill Monroe homeplace on the third day.
While Ohio County is mainly known for being the birthplace of Bill Monroe and Bluegrass music and the first big event is a Bluegrass festival, Matthews says that the Kentucky Music Park will offer more than just Bluegrass music.
“Whatever music will draw people in, that’s what we want,” Matthews said. “I thought it was only fitting that the first big show be Bluegrass because this is the birthplace of Bluegrass music.”
In August there will be a “Battle of the Bands” featuring local acts battling for first prize. In October, Matthews says she wants to do a “haunting” in the park.
“We’ll have, maybe, hayrides through the park and little scares along the way,” Matthews said. “The last weekend of October I want to do ‘Thriller in the Park’ because I love Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller.’ I want someone to come in and do choreography like they do in Lexington to ‘Thriller.’”
Matthews also plans on making the park available for private outdoor events, such as weddings and receptions, even company retreats.
A stage will be built on what is now the first green of the golf course. The area is a like a bowl with a hill rising up in front of the stage area, perfect for seating.
Matthews envisions a covered stage setup for not only music and concerts, but also for plays and theater workshops. Matthews guesses they could accommodate over 5,000 people when the land is cleared. As for now all seating will be lawn chairs and blankets, but bleachers will be put in at some point.
Matthews hopes that the community will come out and support the Kentucky Music Park because in the future if things go well, she hopes to bring bigger acts to town.
“I plan on bringing Hank Williams, Jr. to town,” Matthews said with a laugh, though she’s not kidding around. “When we get the money, our goal is to bring in national acts. My dream would be to see Jimmy Buffett. I want Kentucky Music Park to be the go to place.”
The Matthews are leasing the golf course, but they hope to buy it in the future. To do that, they know they will need as much support as they can get.
“Obviously we’re going to have to make some money,” Matthews said. “But I honestly believe that if the people come out and support it, we can pull in some nationally recognized artists. But the people have got to come out.”
The Kentucky Music Park will be having a concert on Friday, June 15, to introduce themselves to the county. The concert is free and will be from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. with music by the band Loose Wheel, who will be playing Southern Rock and Country music. Everyone is encouraged to bring a lawn chair or blanket and discover what the Kentucky Music Park is all about.