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Saturday, May 25, 2013


Bluegrass Festival, Gettysburg
66th Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival
 The grass isn’t always greener; twice a year, in May and again in August, the grass in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania’s Granite Hill Camping Resort is definitely BLUE.  That’s when the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival is there, a four day musical feast for anyone who loves Bluegrass music.  This is the fourth time we’ve gone, and it’s always quite a thrill.  This is the 66th festival at this site!  Not 66 years because the festival occurs twice a year, but still, 33 years is pretty darned impressive.  Here’s my post from 2011 when we went in August.

Rhonda Vincent took this Panorama photo of the crowd when she played. It is on her FB page.
It was taken on a Smartphone.
She gave permission to share.
I came to bluegrass late—really only over the last few years, but Rob is a long-time fan of some of the greatest bluegrass artists.  But I love live music and music festivals, so the thought of heading for a weekend in Gettysburg was enticing!  Little did I know that I’d fall in love with this great music.  It’s not the singing; it’s the incredible talent of these musicians. 

Gettysburg is about as far north as the circuit comes although last year we saw Rhonda Vincent in Gettysburg the night before she was scheduled to be solo up in Bethel Woods, a venue up in the Catskill Mountains of New York, so perhaps for those at the top of bluegrass, there is a worthwhile audience in the North. 

Bluegrass Festival, Gettysburg
Rhonda Vincent, from a bluegrass family, playing a great mandolin
Bluegrass means constant touring for the performers, and Rhonda Vincent was heading home to Missouri after being on the road for 45 days.  Not an easy life.  You can check her out on Facebook.  She took the panorama photo of the crowd (much smaller than usual because it was drizzling and 57°--kinda nasty) that I posted above.  You can view it on her FB page to see how the crowd from the stage perspective.

Bluegrass Festival, GettysburgThis is such a great festival.  Half days on Thursday and Sunday and full days on Friday and Saturday.  Rob and I go for Friday and Saturday, leaving our house at around 7:30 AM to get to Gettysburg by 11:00 AM when the first act begins on time. 

Best bluegrass band
Here's my favorite combination courtesy of Rhonda Vincent's band.
There's the fiddle, the banjo, the mandolin
the bass, the dobro, and the guitar.
Sweet, sweet music!

The sound I love best comes from this combination of instruments: banjo, mandolin, dobro, bass, violin and guitar.  For added richness, throw in a second fiddle.  No amplification of instruments, just a mic to carry the sounds out to the people.

Speaking of sound systems, the one at Gettysburg gets raves from the performers.

One performer told the story of being at a venue in Philadelphia—big place, huge, expensive sound system, but it was badly managed by inept technicians.  When his group couldn’t get the sound right, he told them to give them one mic and they’d do just fine.  And they did.  Real musicians do not need the technical doodads to make music!

What happens at Gettysburg once that music gets started is set after set with no more than five or six minutes between for setup.  Sets run about 45 minutes apiece with 12-15 songs.  First act goes on at 11 AM; last act Friday began at 11:15 PM, Saturday 11:20.  The only break is from 5:00-6:00 for dinner.  Each act does a set by day and a set by night.  Talk about constant music!

Bluegrass Festival, Gettysburg
Just an impromptu dinner time jam session.  Lovely!
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL.  These same musicians run workshops throughout the day on everything from “Celebrating Appalachian Roots” to playing individual instruments—mandolin, dobro, for instance—to songwriting.  Additionally, they have Jam sessions, sometimes members of different bands and sometimes with the public.  There are lots of folk walking around with their instruments, and during the dinner hour, we got to listen to impromptu jam sessions. 

Bluegrass Festival, GettysburgThere are venders of quality instruments as well as of souvenirs (our beer cozies are Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival, and yes, we have t-shirts), and there are plenty of food venders as well.  Each performing group sells its cds and dvds, and it is all big and friendly.

Bluegrass Festival, Gettysburg

Bluegrass Festival, Gettysburg
Kids were in the pool (it was very hot on Sat.), but no running and yelling.
Bluegrass Festival, Gettysburg
Got kids?  They have activities for them too, including musical ones.  The kids are so well behaved even though the swimming pool is right next to the stage.  Frankly, you’d think you’re on another planet because everyone is polite, neat, and friendly.  But don’t kid yourself.  Long beards, logo emblazed shirts, tie-dyed tees, overalls, skimpy shorts all are here—harmoniously in every sense of the word.  This is a Peace Place with great music.  Read my 2011 post for some more info, but know Rob and I will be back, and I’ll probably write about this festival again.
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