• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Bluegrass band 'deeply regrets' anti-gay song

Midway Renaissance President Jo Blease was at the first of three downtown Midway festivals her group is sponsoring this summer and said everybody seemed to be having a good time. The June 24 event was headlined by the bluegrass band "Shades of Grass," featuring Midway resident Steve Norman. All was well, Blease said, until an unnamed guest vocalist sat in with the band and sang a song called Come On Down To The Farm as the festivities began to wrap up a little before 10 p.m. Even then, Blease said, only a few people paid attention to the lyrics, which include the chorus, "Come on down to the farm, come on out to the barn. You won't see two roosters walkin' arm in arm. They couldn't make a chicken; they don't have an egg to hatch. When God said, 'Love your brother,' I don't think he meant like that." Blease said she was about 35 feet away from the band and didn't realize anyone was upset until she saw one Midway resident she chose not to name exchange words with the singer. The Sun left Norman a voicemail, to which he responded with a written statement: "We deeply regret the events that transpired at the Midsummer Nights event in Midway. The audience member that sang the song is not associated with our band and we apologize for allowing him to sing, when we were not aware of the content. We returned the money we were paid to perform and asked that it be donated to a LGBT organization of the city's choosing. We do not condone intolerance on any level. We apologize to the city of Midway, to those in attendance and most importantly to the LGBT community," Norman wrote. Blease said Midway Renaissance members will meet this week to decide to which group to send the check. Norman also told Blease his band would bow out of their scheduled Aug. 19 appearance. Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said he was inside Darlin' Jean's, which the band was playing in front of, when the offending song was sung. He didn't hear about the incident until afterwards. "It is clearly a song that expresses its opinion that homosexuality is wrong and that God doesn't condone it," Vandegrift said. "That created a little bit of a firestorm in the audience and there was a verbal altercation, nothing physical." Last year, Midway became the eighth city in Kentucky to pass an ordinance designed to protect gays, lesbians and transgender people from discrimination. It is perhaps Vandegrift's most significant achievement since taking office. "I don't want to make this a free speech issue. I understand that everyone has the right under the First Amendment to say what they feel. But people have to also realize that when you say something, all others have the right to say something back, and freedom of speech does not mean freedom from criticism for your speech," Vandegrift told The Sun. "I think we can all agree this was an inappropriate venue for this type of political speech to be laid out ."

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