When Bear on the Square Mountain Festival’s MainStage tent arrives in town today (Wednesday), the excitement will begin to build for the weekend festival which will fill Dahlonega’s downtown with concerts, art, sidewalk jammers and a host of other scheduled programs. Our Welcome Center estimates an annual attendance for this very popular event at between 40,000 and 50,000 each year.
Bear on the Square offers a weekend of events and activities consistent with its mission of celebrating the Southern Appalachian region’s music, art and folkways. The 17th festival in and around the Public Square (rain or shine) will see the full program of events and activities return, and will be expanded by several new offerings.
As usual the festival, open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, will offer two days of free, non-stop traditional music in the MainStage tent. While a lineup of outstanding regional musicians will take the stage both days, a highlight of the music program is always the Sunday morning Gospel Jam led by Glenda Pender, with Sam Johnson opening the program playing Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.
An expanded Artists’ Marketplace featuring juried traditional artists and crafters will fill the square, and a Country Store offering additional hand-made goods will be located in Hancock Park. This year the festival’s big MainStage tent will move out of the park and across North Park Street to a parking lot.
The opening event for the festival will be the annual Friday night Live and Silent Country Auction featuring food, music, and the auction of donated items from local shops, restaurants, and other venues as well as pieces donated by the festival’s demonstrating and exhibiting artists.
A schedule of paid Master Classes on fiddle, bass, guitar and banjo will be offered on Sunday afternoon.
A brand new event this year will be an Open Mic emceed by Neel Pender with Dave Moser handling the sound. Location is the Pavilion Stage at Hancock Park from 1:30-3:30 Saturday.
Throughout Saturday and Sunday events and activities will include free workshops, jams, demos and more; a free children’s program, and new this year, a two-day schedule of storytellers. The ambitious schedule of workshops and activities will be held at three different locations: the Workshop Tent in Conner Memorial Park, the Pavilion Stage at Hancock Park, and Searcey Underground, which is downstairs in Hall Block (106 Public Square North). Scheduled activities range from organized jams, to workshops on subjects ranging from buck dancing and hambone, to singing and stringed instrument lessons.
A free children’s program will run from noon until 3 p.m. on both weekend afternoons. Moira Nelligan of the Nelligan School of Traditional Music in Decatur will lead the program and will sing, dance and play rhythm games with youngsters. Another activity for children will be a toy-making booth on North Chestatee Street, presented by The Home Depot of Dahlonega.
Storytelling, which served to entertain, educate and build community for early Appalachian settlers, will be going on both days at the Crimson Moon Café.
Traditional dance teams from the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, N.C. will perform throughout the day Saturday on the Visitor’s Center plaza. The public is invited to do the dancing at a Saturday night mountain dance with live music and caller at 6:30 p.m., also in front of the Visitors Center.
Schedules of events are listed below. More details on all of these events and activities can be found at bearonthesquare.org.