Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Every Friday on the corner of Maguire and Colonial in Ocoee, musicians gather in the parking lot behind the Twisty Treat ice cream shop to perform Bluegrass music. This tradition began 25 years ago. Different musicians show up each week to sit in. Outside this tight circle of performers, locals in the know, stop out with their lawn chairs to watch. A large semi truck cab was parked nearby with it's loud diesel engine rumbling. He must have been parked there to watch. Children laughed from the windows of a white family van. My bet is this that parents had the heater on to stay warm.
The Ocoee Parking Lot Bluegrass Jam is a well-established, open jam and has welcomes pickers of all skill levels. People of all ages and backgrounds enjoy the Jams. It’s very much a place for families, young couples, retirees, children, pets, and tourists. Weather permitting the Jam begins every Friday evening at 6:30.
The orange glow lighting under the parking lot lamp was magical. On this night the temperate was down in the low 60's with a crisp wind to add a wind chill factor. When the musicians took a break to get another layer of clothes, I did the same. With a skull cap and wind breaker jacket, I was nice and toasty. I recognized most of the folk songs and sang along. "Will the Circle be Unbroken" seemed particularly appropriate sung by this tight knit circle of friends. Between songs they might ask about a musician who hadn't shown. It was clear they look out for each other.
This is one of the few old Florida traditions that remains in a digital age where the world speeds by. There is a comforting small town warmth that comes from watching this parking lot jam. It is like the feeling , had as a child when first watching a small town parade. Musicians and locals would catch up and chat between sets.
I worked on my Wacom tablet since I figured the computer CPU might help warm my hands. A banjo player complained the his fingers were cold. He later told me the he came to watch one of the parking lot jam sessions and one of the musicians walked up to him and asked, "Do you play banjo?" "Why yes, how did you know?" the man responded. "you look like a banjo player". Since the banjo was in his car, he ended up performing from that night onward.
Locals looked over my shoulder to watch the sketch in progress. "You should show that to Paul." I was told. Paul has shot about 200 YouTube videos of these spontaneous parking lot jams. Because of these videos, people come from around the world to watch or sit in on a jam. The digital age has made this home grown tradition internationally known. After about an hour, the group began to disperse. I was disappointed because I could have used another hour to help refine the warm lighting in the scene. A sketch by definition is never quite finished however so I had to accept what I could catch in the time I had.