Saturday, January 12, 2008

Carolina Chocolate Drops, Norman Blake Headline 2008 Bear on the Square Festival

Organizers of Dahlonega’s annual Bear on the Square Mountain Festival are excited that their upcoming 12th annual event, the 2008 weekend of music and art, has what is probably “the most exciting lineup of entertainers in the history of the festival”.

With the dynamic Carolina Chocolate Drops and legendary old-time musicians Norman and Nancy Blake as headliners, the festival is scheduled Friday through Sunday, April 18-20 in Dahlonega, Ga.

Throughout the three-day event, visiting and local musicians will gather in groups to jam on the lawn of the historic Gold Museum and at other points around the Public Square, providing music throughout the festival area. An ambitious schedule of music workshops featuring many of the festival’s talented performers, is being conducted, and a street dance is also planned.

However, there’s much more to the Bear on the Square than the music. Also taking place around the Public Square is the festival’s juried Mountain Marketplace, offering handcrafted art based on Appalachian culture. The artists and their work will be available at booths around the Public Square which will be filled with pottery, handmade baskets, jewelry, candles, instruments, jams and jellies, artwork, and much more.

Featured musicians for this year’s festival, who will be performing in the large white tent in Hancock Park just north of the Public Square, include the Carolina Chocolate Drops, an exciting group of young African-American string band musicians who many observers say “are taking the music world by storm”; and legendary old-time country musicians Norman and Nancy Blake, who will be joined on stage by famed fiddler James Bryan and his guitarist/singer daughter Rachel.

Other scheduled performers include multi-talented acoustic musician John Lilly; Dahlonega’s Curtis Jones, who has entertained bluegrass audiences throughout the world, and his singer/guitarist wife Holly; Hair of the Dog, led by longtime musicians whose offerings range from Cajun to zydeco to blues; the Skillet Lickers, an old-time band which was founded in the 1920s by Gid Tanner, the grandfather of current band leader Phil Tanner and great grandfather of the band’s fiddler, Russell Tanner; Gold Rush with Neel Pender, a Dahlonega-based band which features some of the area’s best bluegrass musicians; The Solstice Sisters, three women from Athens harmonizing old-time country ballads, traditional folk, and 30s styled swing; Lo-Fi Breakdown, a high-energy, old-school bluegrass quintet from Asheville, N.C., with a mix of traditional and original material; and the Myers Family and Friends, which sings and plays old-time family harmony singing that has been passed along in their family for the past 80 years. Also scheduled are a Young Guns performance, spotlighting some of the area’s finest young musicians, and a Sunday morning Gospel jam.

Another popular local bluegrass band, Uncle Daddy, will provide music for the annual Live Country Auction, a major fund-raiser for the festival, which will be held in the performance tent in Hancock Park on Friday night. Doc Johnson’s Traveling Miracle Medicine Show, as well as a heritage center demonstrating mountain traditions, special children’s activities, and food vendors will also be at Hancock Park.

The 2008 Marketplace will once again feature North Georgia folk artist Billy Roper, who began carving in stone when he was growing up and now works in both stone and wood, creating masks and totems. He also paints, with subjects ranging from his own uniquely stylistic florals to intricate scenes filled with animals, figures, and plants. Roper was featured in the February 2007 edition of Southern Living Magazine.

At Marketplace for the first time this year is Southern folk and “outsider” artist "Blacktop" (Ken Gentle), a self-taught artist who was born in Alabama but now lives in Georgia. Beginning his art as a way to express his visions and dreams while growing up in the South, “Blacktop”, who will be featured in Southern Living’s April 2008 edition, utilizes water color and acrylics. Most of his paintings start with a base of "black tar" on wood, then come the colors (hence the name "Blacktop").

Dahlonega’s business community is also participating in the festivities, with special showings at the art galleries on and near the Public Square. Plus, a number of local musical venues have scheduled performances that weekend.

Co-sponsor of the festival is the Convention & Visitors Bureau of the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce.

Major sponsors for the festival include Jim Ellis Audi of Atlanta, Corporate Sponsor; The Fudge Factory and The Crimson Moon Cafe, both of Dahlonega, Mainstage Sponsors; Hummingbird Lane Art Gallery of Dahlonega, Marketplace Sponsor; folk artist Billy Roper, Heritage Sponsor; The Pender Family, Founding Sponsor; GetUWired of Dahlonega, Website Sponsor.

Community Sponsors are Chestatee Regional Library, Stephanie Corn M.D., Rees Chapman Ph.D., Dahlonega Merchants Association, Historic Holly Theatre, North Georgia College and State University, and The Wiggins Group for Traditional Music. Business Sponsors include Coloth Type, Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce, City of Dahlonega, Lumpkin County, Doug Singleton CPA, and The Smith House. The Southeastern Bluegrass Association (SEBA) is also an annual supporter of the event.

More information about the 2008 Bear on the Square Mountain Festival can be found at

Bear on the Square Mountain Festival, Inc., which stages the show each year, is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit cultural arts organization whose mission is to preserve and celebrate the culture of the Southern Appalachians through the presentation of music, traditional craft, and folkways. Tax deductible donations are welcome and can be sent to P.O. Box 338, Dahlonega, GA 30533.

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