🪕You’re invited: Florida parking lot bluegrass jam plays every week -- 32 years and counting

Musicians gather in parking lot near West Colonial Drive, Maguire Road in Ocoee

OCOEE, Fla. – They put on a show every Friday night. You don’t need to buy tickets or pay anything to experience this Bluegrass concert; the group performs for fun.

The location is unique: Visitors can pull up a lawn chair and sit in the shade of an Ocoee plaza at the corner of West Colonial Drive and Maguire Road.

For the last 32 years, a group of men and women have gathered in a parking lot that used to feature a Piggy Wiggly supermarket. The grocery store is long gone, but this group of bluegrass musicians and their fans still gather every Friday night, weather permitting.

Johnny Adams, a loyal member of the Bluegrass group, will proudly tell you he loves bluegrass music.

“We picked and picked and picked. We started uptown at the firehouse, and I think they finally ran us out and we met down here,” Adams said of their current location behind a Pizza Hut.

“There’s no amplification. There’s no drums. It’s pure, simple music,” Adams said.

That’s where you’ll find them on Friday nights, starting at 6:30 p.m. – unless it rains or it’s too cold – then they may move to Adams’ house, he said.

In retirement, Adams even started making his own mandolins that he calls The Adams. The small, guitar-like stringed instrument with a notable sound is popular in bluegrass music.

“I started in 1994. It took me six months to build the first one, now it takes about 130 hours,” Adams said.

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Now 86 years old, Adams said he may have made his last mandolin, “unless somebody wants one worse than I do” as he held the 77th instrument he meticulously handcrafted.

He plays his handmade instruments during what has been dubbed the Parking Lot Bluegrass Jam.

“The music is pure and comes from when people lived on a farm and you can tell by what you’re hearing. The lyrics tell the story of the work they did on the farm. And it’s evolved over the years,” said Adams.

Adams said the music spontaneous. They don’t rehearse or plan certain songs.

“We just do what comes to our mind and everybody usually has a song in their head. We take turns with someone taking the lead on a song,” said Adams. “It’s all about just having fun. The older we get, the less time we spend out here, but when the music is real good we might be out here until 10:30 p.m. or so.”

There’s usually an audience sitting on lawn chairs. Fans from all over the world.

“We’re from Belgium and we have a house in Winter Garden. We wanted to do something local, so I was searching on the internet and I found these guys,” said Robert Lardenoije. “Most Fridays, when we are in the U.S., we’ll visit them. They’ve become friends. The music is amazing,”

Lardenoije said the parking lot gathering is about more than just the music.

“It’s also about the hospitality. They are so friendly and it’s like family,” said Lardenoije. “We’ll keep coming here as long as they keep playing here.”

Whether you want to pick with the musicians or just listen in, everyone is invited.

So, pull up a chair for a free concert of Americana, or join in if you’re able.


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About the Authors:

Jacob joined ClickOrlando.com in 2022. He spent 19 years at the Orlando Sentinel, mostly as a photojournalist and video journalist, before joining Spectrum News 13 as a web editor and digital journalist in 2021.

Crystal Moyer is a morning news anchor who joined the News 6 team in 2020.