Bearsville Bluegrass Festival

Bearsville Bluegrass Festival: Kicking off the Bearsville Summer Season with Live Music, amazing Nature, and our Community of Friends.

The first Festival of our Summer Season went with a bang – we had wonderful weather (not too hot, but dry and warm…), with the best of bluegrass musicians, and lots of lovely visitors.

It’s impossible to predict the weather, but we were lucky with this event. And we got most things right and welcomed many old friends and new friends to the Park. More on what we learnt below…

Mr Do-Everything Ian (I call him Mr T) had spent some of the spring re-building the stage in the bottom corner of the park, so that the natural slope allowed more people to see and hear the musicians. And true to our word, the new sound system meant that most people could hear the music, but our neighbors were not disturbed…

That’s the funny thing about Woodstock.. for all its musical history (and there is no small town like it in the world for the richness and talent of the artists in these parts), some of our locals don’t like it much. So I ran around every hour with the decibel meter, measuring sound at all four perimeters of the Park.

We were OK. Under 75 decibels everytime. In fact, as the afternoon wore on, we increased the volume a little but still kept it within the guidelines. Next time we will add some small filler amps for the areas that were not near the 24 speakers we have installed.

We were all treated to an exceptional musical lineup, with Austin Scelzo and his award- winning On the Trail band, fresh from Connecticut, plus our very own Hudson Valley heroes – the Catskill Mountain String Band, and the Grass Valley Band, both important members of the Hudson Valley Bluegrass Association. All the musicians knew each other from the Bluegrass circuit and are used to playing together.

So, the big treat of the day – all three bands got together on stage at the end of the afternoon for a 12 (or was it 15?!) person jam. And they enjoyed playing together so much that they then found a quiet spot in the trees for another 30 minutes of playing together, as people left the park.

Our outdoor BBQ got off to a good start, although we were bothered to see the lines as long as they were, so we are completely re-planning our prep and production for the next Festival (the Folk Festival on July 6). Next time, the chicken and brats, the pulled pork and seitan will all be ready to serve, rather than cooked to order.

And after listening to lots of requests for more for the children, we have decided to find and serve small portions of grilled chicken, smaller cuts (but more of them!) of watermelon, plus organic popsicles, lollies and ice cream sandwiches next time… (my history is in making organic food, so treats HAVE to be organic – no additives, no junk!

Bluegrass Festival at Bearsville Center Woodstock
Bearsville Bluegrass festival
Bearsville Bluegrass festival

And along the same lines – the fresh citrus cocktails were an amazing hit. Although we made them for the children in our big slushie machines (from orange, lemon and lime juice, no junk of course) many of them were served to grown-ups, with a shot of added tequila, vodka or rum.

The Sangria – not so popular (summer and red wine…not a good combo?) but the Catskill Brewery draft beer was great – we sold out, so will be ordering two more kegs for next time. And the delicious ‘Love You Bunches’ Rosê wine from Stoplman Vineyards in California was perfect for a summer afternoon.

This was the first of our Festivals to offer a Festival Market, running along the banks of the Sawkill Stream. The vendors offered everything from WARM Peet Socks, with profits going to mental health NFP’s; Grateful Gem Head crystals; Sweet Ramas all-natural goat-based skincare products; Dutch Harvest Hemp Tea, Ros Anna Maris botanical skincare, Happylife’s Woodstock-themed clothing (we love those guys!), and Hammer + Light, handcrafted lamps using reclaimed wood.

In addition, our Bearsville merchandise now includes the new Bearsville Festival Tee-shirts with Banjo Bear and a ‘Just Be Bear’ T for kids. The children’s Tee-Pee was an AMAZING hit!

We had been working so hard to get the bathrooms ready (they arrived the day before we opened) that we had not had time to cover the cloth with the Kraft paper… so everyone just went ahead on the day and painted the cloth! When I peeked at it, the kids were painting the lower parts and the (mostly dads) adults were painting the tops..

Beautiful artwork – and now permanent! Next time we will be ready with the paper… and it gave me a great idea for the Art Festival on August 17 TH – let’s construct a wall and have all the artists and the visitors paint the wall.. watch this space… There was also ping pong, corn hole, bocce ball, paddling in the stream, and a couple of Tours – the Nature Trail, and the Rock Junket. Next time we promise to publish the times of the tours so that more people know about them.

So – a good afternoon (and we learnt a lot) and just a lovely thing for the team to see people having a good time in the Park. Pre-covid, some of it had been a parking lot – but once covid hit, people wanted to be outside, so in 2022 we gobbled up part of the old parking lot (and made a new one) and opened it up to these small festivals so that people could get together and share the communities that live music creates. So good to see families laughing, kids playing, and friends connecting over the shared love of music and nature.

And - for the next one – well we want to make them better and better (note to Mr T and the team – the lines, the bathrooms, the food choices….and to me – more 100% natural cocktails (I am working on a Strawberry Lemonade recipe), plus more Nature Trail tours, and better info and announcements.

To see the Park full of happy people would have made the founder of the Park - Albert Grossman so happy – he was a great lover of folk and roots music, managing Odetta before he moved onto Bob Dylan, Peter Paul and Mary, Janis Joplin, Todd Rundgren and many others.

We look forward to hosting more festivals this summer and continuing to bring people together to celebrate the best of music, nature, and community in the Catskills. If you haven’t joined us yet, we hope to see you at our next event!

Lizzie Vann. Owner.