A weeklong event with live music, fun, prizes, human tricks, Cool Bus Live-In and more.
That’s how Bustock began 24 years ago on Aug. 3, 1998, across from the grain bins on U.S. 50 in Seymour.
The event started out as the Cool Bus event, and since then, it has been called The Billboards, BusFest and Bustock.
Robert Becker, former owner of WJAA radio station, said back then, there was no live outdoor music in Seymour, no CityJam or Friday Night Live, so Bustock was the pioneering force behind outdoor music festivals in Jackson County.
“We tried out local artists and some out-of-town artists and all kinds of different bands, from folk to bluegrass to rock to harder rock,” Becker said. “We had a bunch of different people through the years, like The Why Store, Rusty Bladen, Governor Davis and the Blues Ambassadors, 100% Angus, Duke Tomato, Derrick Howard from Columbus and tribute bands for The Beatles, Rolling Stones and more.”
Becker said the original location of the event was in the parking lot along Tipton Street across from the bins. Then after a few years, it moved to Southern Indiana Center for the Arts in Seymour.
“Partly because it was so hot in that parking lot, and also, we wanted to support the art center,” he said. “It’s so pretty out there and it had a stage and bathrooms and it was much easier, and there was grass and trees, and it was a nice venue.”
The event used to go for an entire week, starting on Monday morning and ending on Friday evening, Becker said.
“We’d be out there all day long kind of just hanging out and doing silly things that were fun for the community, fun for the radio station and it was something good for downtown,” he said.
Becker said when Bustock moved to the art center, it went to fewer days.
“We’d usually have two music acts a night, and sometimes, we’d have kids activities and do some art,” he said. “For many years, there was the Rubber Duck Derby fundraiser and then raffles for the Boys and Girls Club of Seymour, and the winner would be announced at Bustock.”
Special Olympics used to have a food booth in a tent set up at Bustock as a fundraiser, too.
“The first year, there was originally going to be someone live on the walkway up under the billboard for a week, but our insurance agent said we couldn’t do that,” Becker said. “So we ended up saying, ‘Well, let’s have somebody live in the bus for the week parked by the billboards, so we did a contest to see who was going to do it, and it was Brent Holverson, who was going to try to live in the bus all week for $963.”
Holverson didn’t actually live in the bus all of that time. He was in and out of the bus and hung out, and there was no one there to watch and see if he actually stayed there all of the time, so it was more of the concept, and Becker’s not sure if the radio station ever had to pay out the prize money.
“Rick Wilson used to work for us and he would hang out at Bustock during the day, and we’d have different concerts at night, and we used to do a talent night, too,” Becker said. “We used to hold contests to bring people in as long as it didn’t cost anything just to try to get people out there.”
Becker said back in the early years, they planned three stunts for three different years.
“One year, Mike Barnett, also known as Slick Ratchet, was going to jump over the Cool Bus in a go-kart, so he built these ramps and everything, and there was a mob of people there to see it, but he wasn’t really going to jump,” he said. “We needed something to add to the game because all of those people were there, so we had the city attorney at the time come and stop it and the city shut it down. People were mad because they thought he was really going to jump this thing on his go-kart.”
Another year, there was a huge crane and Barnett was up on top and said he was going to dive into a swimming pool from 100 feet up, Becker said.
“He was up at the top in this little bucket, and I think he called it the Death Leap, but what we did is he had this outfit on and we had a dummy dressed in the same outfit, so he ducked down and we threw the dummy down instead, and people gasped when it hit the ground,” he said.
The third stunt that took place at Bustock in the early years was called Escape from the Death Vault.
“We built this big box and we lifted it up on a crane, and Slick Ratchet was going to escape from it before the rope burned and the box came crashing down,” Becker said. “He got in this big wooden box, and it was lifted up on this huge crane, and we lit the rope on fire.”
The radio station had a lot of people dressed in blue overalls, so they had Ratchet change into those clothes, too.
“He wasn’t actually in there, and the box came crashing down and exploded on the ground as there was no net,” he said. “To add to the drama, the door to the Cool Bus opened and we had a smoke machine in there and out walked Slick Ratchet, and he had gone around the back of the bus.”
Becker said those stunts were fun, besides the music and all of the other silliness.
The event underwent some changes in 2018 when the name was changed to BusFest and it switched to a one-night event at Chateau de Pique Winery. Before that, it had been conducted over three nights at Southern Indiana Center for the Arts.
“We were younger and crazy back then, and I think as we got older, we trimmed down the days of the event and we moved from downtown to the art center to eventually out here at Chateau de Pique, where there’s the big tent in case of rain,” Becker said. “Now, they’re bringing it back to the same place it all started, where Crossroads Community Park is now.”
Retired from the radio station for two years, Becker has found other ways to spend his time. He works as an usher at the Louisville Bats baseball games and a tour guide at the Louisville Slugger Museum, fills in at Chateau de Pique Winery once in awhile and has even done some substitute teaching.
Becky Schepman, current president of WJAA, said her earliest memories of Bustock was when it was underneath the billboards on Tipton Street, and she remembers the concerts going on all week and contests.
“My first year organizing the event was last year in 2021, and we had to cancel the event in 2020 because of COVID protocol,” Schepman said. “It takes our full staff to put on the Bustock event, and we have employees who make the posters, book the bands, and others who book food and drinks and then also organize our big game and the winners who get to play.”
Names for contestants are collected all summer at the radio station’s spin-and-win events, so they are always keeping a running list of people who will be coming to play the game at Bustock.
“We just celebrated our 30th birthday and have been doing the Summer of Fun spinning and winning for 30 years with our grand finale being Bustock every year,” she said. “We thought it would be so cool to go back to the original location where the tradition started 30 years ago with 96.3.”
Schepman said they are a community-oriented station and love meeting and seeing their listeners all summer long and appreciate their support, and this event is about giving back to their listeners and the community.
“We would just like to thank listeners and our sponsors for all of their support. Local radio is a dying breed in many big cities across the USA, and we are so blessed to have a community that listens and supports local,” she said. “Listening to local radio is shopping local and supporting local, and we are so thankful to still be serving our community after 30 years.”
If you go
What: Bustock 2022
When: 6 p.m. Aug. 13
Where: Crossroads Community Park, 101 E Tipton St., Seymour
Admission: Free to the public
Schedule: 6 p.m. – Kill’n Smalls, 7 p.m. – Big Game for contestants, 7:30 p.m. – 100% Angus, AC/DC tribute band
Concessions: Food will be available for purchase from Smalltown Satisfied (walking tacos and coney dogs) and drinks will be provided by The Seymour Brewing Co.