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Rossfest named after teacher, music lover

December 20, 2018

On Saturday, Dec. 22, the historic Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, Kentucky, will host the inaugural Rossfest Music Festival - A Delta Hotel By Marriot Winter Jam.

The creation of this new, yearly event came from tragedy and then triumph, all happening in less than a two month period. It is a great story of motivation and remembrance that all came together quickly to fill a niche in the Tri-State music scene.

Lasting from 7 p.m. until midnight, Rossfest will showcase some of the best of the roots, rock and alt. country music scene that is flourishing in the Tri-state.

The bill features Arlo McKinley and the Lonesome Sound, Chelsea Nolan, Josh Brown and the Hard Livin’ Legends, Laid Back Country Picker and Devils Creek Special.

Tickets are $25 with VIP tickets at $50 available. The Paramount Arts Center is located at 1300 Winchester Ave., in Ashland. For more information, go to paramountartscenter.com or 606-324-0007.

The idea was hatched to create this festival just six weeks ago. The story of how the Paramount Arts Center, a host of regional sponsors and the vision of a local musician all came together to make this event happen so fast is an amazing and true tale. Here is how it all went down.

Rossfest is named after Ron Ross, an eastern Kentucky resident and a beloved teacher and tennis coach at Ironton High School, located just across the river in southern Ohio. On Aug. 31, Ross had just presented a tech prep website for his students to use as the new school year began and his bio was on it.

A graduate of Eastern Kentucky University who achieved a Masters Degree in Educational Technology at Ohio University, Ross had been teaching since 1982.

Ross’ requirements of his students were simple; “Be responsible for your own actions, come to class prepared and ready to learn, be respectful of others and follow the guidelines listed in the student handbook.”

About two months later, on Oct. 25, 2018, Ross died tragically and suddenly at his home as he was about to get up and go to school. As Ross’ devastated friends, family and students mourned him, there was another side of his personality that was remembered and honored - his love of music.

Josh Brown leads the band Josh Brown and the Hard Livin’ Legends and he was a best friend of Ross’ son Brian when he was growing up. While hanging out at the Ross household as a kid, Ron Ross would break out his collection of vinyl records and blow the eager young minds of Josh, Brian and others who wanted to learn about music.

“Mr. Ross passed away abruptly, out of nowhere even though healthy and active, and he was a father, a teacher at Ironton High School, a husband to his wife Linda and an absolute music lover,” said Josh Brown. “I have known him almost my whole life as I graduated from high school with his son Brian. Ron introduced me to so much music that I would not have listened to otherwise when I was growing up. He had all of his music on vinyl.”

For Brown and others, spending time at the Ross house meant being turned onto the tunes of a prior generation.

“I remember hanging out in the garage with Ron, Brian and Linda and listening to these vinyl albums from groups like the Allman Brothers Band,” said Brown. “At that time, I had never heard anything by the Allman Brothers Band as I grew up very sheltered. We didn’t have any internet back then or anything. We had vinyl records. I mean, we had tapes and CDs, but I had never heard anything like the music he was playing. I didn’t know who those bands were, and while hanging out in the garage, I would hear these sounds that I had never heard before or knew existed. Ron opened up my mind to music I never thought I’d hear.”

Ron Ross also encouraged the playing of musical instruments with his friends and family. A guitarist himself, he incited jams at his house by creating a sort of musical competition that many participated in every autumn.

“The star at the top of the Rossfest logo represents the competition that he would do every year,” said Brown. “Brian is a producer for MTV out in Los Angeles. I am guessing that for about 13 years, we had this musical contest with a new theme or genre chosen every year and everyone would show up and you had to play two cover songs and one original. Ron competed in that every single time. Some years, there was even a Ross Star trophy made and given out to the winner. It was just about getting together with friends and having a few beers and having fun.”

After Ross suddenly passed away, the idea was hatched to create a music festival in his honor that would feature local and regional bands on the rise. Impressively, Brown made this happen in less than eight weeks.

The idea made so much sense that sponsors began to get onboard immediately, including Delta Hotels by Marriot, Braidy Industries, Infusion Solutions, Apex Construction, TNT Machining Company, Smith Orthopedics, Ashland Alliance, Getfiddle Custom Shop, Big Sandy Superstore and Print My Threads.

Once all of those ducks were in a row, the Paramount Arts Center opened up its doors.

“I wanted to keep the artists who perform at this festival from within our area,” said Brown. “I didn’t want to pull in some group from Colorado, or anywhere else. The sponsors that I went to with this idea were so on board with it, it was refreshing. They are all pro-local music and want this to happen, with all of the talent that we have in this region. I feel so good about this lineup, and the Paramount is such a beautiful venue. It is a festival that we need to have here and it is also a way to commemorate a great human being.”

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