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Sunday, September 04, 2011


That sea of umbrellas protecting concert goers is an indication of how special The Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival is to those of us who love this type of music.

Singin' in the Rain
We're somewhere back under a huge tent--nice and dry!

BTW, you won’t see Rob’s or my umbrella.  At this, our third Festival, we came prepared.  We set up reclining chairs and our little Eddie Bauer table out on a small field with a wonderful view of the stage and at a distance where the music is clear and sweet.  Then, we set up a second set of chairs under the huge tented area parallel to our original setup.  So I write this as I listen, protected from the rain.
Wendy relaxing
Music, a recliner, and a cozie-covered bottle of beer.  I'm ready for plenty of bluegrass! 
Pretty crummy, you might think, to take up so much space when you can’t be in two places at once, but this is the most incredible venue.  It’s civil.  People can set themselves up any place they wish.  In fact, here at Granite Hill Camping Resort where the twice a year Festivals are held, if you are a camper and are here for the week, you can set up your chairs about a week in advance and no one will move them.  Here is the rule:  If your seat is empty, someone else can use it.  Then if you come, that person will leave.  Simple.  Civil.  Our seats are there for anyone when we are not.  And when I want to get close to the stage to take photos or to be really close for a particular act, there are places for me to sit.  In the three times we’ve attended this Festival, I’ve never seen any problem at all.
Rhonda Vincent
Rhonda Vincent & her son-in-law.  Close to the stage is no problem at all.
I might add that this civility and respect extends to all aspects of the event.  No one leaves so much as a piece of paper on the grounds.  Because there are many children, we are asked to use cozies for our cans and bottles of beer.  Yes, they sell them, but they’re not expensive.  Nothing here is priced for gouging!  Including the Festival.
This is for Rob
This is for me.
The Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival runs for four days.  Rob and I come for two, Friday and Saturday.  We cannot take advantage of the four or three-day passes, but our single day admission for each of the two days is only $35.00. 

Anyway, this afternoon, after a lovely morning, the skies exploded in thunderous, wet fury.  Some people up front simply opened their umbrellas; others put on ponchos, and others calmly drifted back to take empty seats here under the tent. 
We were here when today’s music began at , and we won’t leave tonight until after the last act which goes on at .  Yes, that’s for a $35.00 admission ticket.  We’ll take none of our things with us, and tomorrow morning when we return, a mysterious gnome will have straightened the makeshift rows and filled in any empty spaces.  Neat as a pin.

What about the quality of music, you might ask?  Fantabulous!  We see the finest bluegrass artists—grammy nominees and winners, artists given awards by Presidents, new and up-and-coming artists as well as seasoned veterans.  It is phenomenal.  If you are not a bluegrass fan already, go to Pandora or Jango.  Then come here next May or August.
Seldom Scene
The Seldom Scene is probably the oldest group here.  Ben (banjo) is 73.  Their name is based on the fact that the original members jammed in someone's basement.  They were all professional men enjoying their music.  They began getting calls to play but essentially they were "Seldom Scene."  And then they took off.  You just have to listen once to know why!
Bluegrass is WYSIWYG music.  What You See Is What You Get.  In a rare and unholy occasion, a musician uses an electrified instrument, but 99.9% of the time, this is pure acoustic music or a’capella singing with the most incredibly delicious harmonies.  No percussion, just strings.  In the best music, the vocals are allowed to shine while the accompaniment fades into the background only to come back as the vocal fades away.  The instruments are given an opportunity to shine individually, and the musicality is extraordinary.  If you’re thinking of some weird looking guy pickin’ on a porch in Deliverance—think again.  One group here, Next Best Thing, represents the seventh generation of bluegrass professionals.  Most have studied music in universities across the country.  There’s nothing amateurish in this crowd.  Microphones are used, though, because you have a huge, huge, crowd of bluegrass worshippers all around.
Next Best Thing
Next Best Thing, a relatively new group, includes daughters of Rhonda Vincent and son from Cherry Holmes

If you think for a moment that this is not a serious convocation, think again.  When they’re not performing, the artists run clinics for and schedule jams with attendees.  It’s wonderful to see so many people carrying string instrument cases with them. 
one of my favorite instruments is the dobro
Martin Guitar has a booth here.  In fact, there is a drawing for a $4,000. Martin guitar at the end of the festival.  The proceeds go to a bluegrass music school.  As I said, this is serious music.  Other booths sell mandolins, sheet music, and just about anything serious bluegrass requires. 
Doyle Lawson
Doyle Lawson is one of the bluegrass greats
OK.  I head to T-shirts, refrigerator magnets and the like, but last year I did buy a sweetgrass hat I’ve been using.  It has a lovely fresh grassy aroma, is crushable, and, therefore, packable. 

The rain is becoming torrential, and the wind is whipping the rain toward the stage.  They actually call an early 50 minute dinner break.  What will we do?  We check in at our hotel, but we are back when the music starts up.  The rain has stopped, and bluegrass continues as if the weather had been beautiful all day.  We stay until the end.

Saturday we'll be back. The music will be too but with a different lineup. The day runs the same time schedule, and once again it’s great.  Does not get much better than this.

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