Congratulations to Jason Penland (pictured above on the left), who won the Rufus Thames (pictured on the right) custom guitar October 14 at Blue Highway Fest in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Jason, from Burnsville, North Carolina, celebrated his 50th birthday that same day.

“I have been so blessed on my birthday,” Penland wrote on his Facebook page. “We started off with a big family meal with my parents, siblings, and kids, and then we headed to Big Stone Gap for three awesome days of the second annual Blue Highway Fest. We met so many cool bands, and Blue Highway even gave me a birthday shoutout and sang ‘Happy Birthday’! How cool is that? My father-in-law, Jim Wilson, purchased a ticket for me for a chance to win the Rufus Thames guitar, and then, low and behold, Rufus picked my name out of around 900 other folks combined, for both instruments they raffled off. I was in shock—still am! I literally ran to the stage to receive this amazing gift. Tim Stafford had played the guitar during the whole festival and did an amazing job, as always. For a moment in time, I was on the big stage with heroes like Jason Burleson, Tim Stafford, Sam Bush, and many others. Of course, I did a little Tony Rice lick on the guitar because he’s always in my heart. This was such an amazing and humbling experience—one that I will never forget! I will cherish these memories forever, and I will always cherish this ole Rufus guitar.”

Built by luthier Rufus Thames of Bristol, Virginia, (at right in the photo above), the prize guitar is a replication of Blue Highway guitarist Tim Stafford’s 1934 D-18 Martin guitar. The IBMA Foundation is very grateful to Blue Highway, Mr. Thames, all the raffle ticket purchasers, and everyone associated with Blue Highway Fest for their kind generosity.

“I know firsthand what great work the IBMA Foundation does because I was a board member for a number of years,” said Tim Stafford. “There’s not an organization anywhere that makes a bigger investment in the future of bluegrass music by supporting educational programs. That’s why I wanted this guitar raffle to benefit the Foundation at Blue Highway Fest 2023. Rufus Thames’s beautiful handcrafted guitars are among the best modern guitars available.”

Return to the November 2023 issue of The Cornerstone.