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Georgia Mountain Laurel Magazine

21st Annual Bear on the Square

Apr 19, 2017 11:16AM ● By Tracy McCoy

Dahlonega's Bear on the Square Mountain Festival will continue to provide family fun the weekend of April 22-23  with an expanded program of activities for participants., and the 2017 celebration has added a major new event, the Moonlight Jam, which will take place on Saturday evening of the festival. 

The festival will be staged, rain or shine, in and around the town's Historic Public Square the fourth weekend of April, one week later than usual to avoid conflicting with the Easter weekend. Here is a rundown of highlights for this year's 21st Bear on the Square festival:

Friday, April 21
Jamming on the Square
  * Jammers, who gather around the town square, start arriving around midday for what is one of the festival's favorite participant activities, and the jamming will go on, day and night, throughout the Bear weekend. A large percentage of these jammers have been coming to the festival for many years.
Live and Silent Country Auction
  * The largest annual fundraiser for Bear, the Live and Silent Country Auction, opens its doors at 5 p.m. on Friday night, April 21, when auction items can be previewed and food and beverages serving will begin. Catering the food will be two Dahlonega restaurants, Shenanigans Restaurant & Irish Pub and the Bourbon Street Grille. Admission to the MainStage Tent, the scene of the auctions, is $5 and covers the cost of a bidding paddle, dinner and wine. Live music will be provided by legendary North Georgia musicians Curtis Jones and Matt Mundy beginning at 5:30 p.m., and the live auction will get underway at 7 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday, April 22 and 23
Music in the MainStage Tent
  * Performances by 11 bands and individual musicians are scheduled in the MainStage Tent throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday. The opening event on Sunday morning will be the Gospel Jam, which is led by Glenda Pender and is probably the single most popular event each year during the festival. There is no cost for admission to any performance. 
Moonlight Jam in MainStage Tent
  * The first annual Moonlight Jam will take place on Saturday evening. This free admission event will be hosted by Rev. Jeff Mosier, a banjo artist who is considered one of the South's most beloved musicians. The tent will open at 7 p.m., and the jam will start at 7:30 p.m. and last until around 9:30 p.m. The jam, sponsored by Jekyll Brewing Company, will consist of performances by Mosier's band and other guest performers, and it will give festival goers, including jammers in town for Bear, a chance to bring their instruments and voices and to pick and sing with the pros. Or, if they prefer, jam attendees can just listen to the music.
Artist Marketplace
  * Held around the Historic Public Square on Saturday and Sunday, the Marketplace presents the juried work from an impressive group of quality regional artists, including folk artist Billy Roper, the festival's Heritage Sponsor. This year the market will have 90 booths with 81 of these locations containing the work of these artists and craftsmen, some of which will be demonstrating their talents. The John C. Campbell Folk School will have a section of the Marketplace where there will be several demonstrating artists who work in different fields of art and crafts. This year's Campbell artists will be doing blacksmithing, broom making, basketry, spinning, woodcarving and weaving. In another section of the Marketplace will be a Luthiers' Row with skilled, regional instrument makers. The Marketplace will also have a First Aid tent and booths for exhibiting sponsors, festival information and merchandise booths, the Weekend Gold Miners, and the Georgia Pick & Bow Traditional Music School. Located in Hancock Park will be tents for several organizations and various kids' activities.
  * The Southern Appalachian oral art of storytelling has been added to the Bear lineup in recent years, and the Southern Order or Storytellers has compiled a lineup of storytellers for Saturday and Sunday. While most of the storytellers will appear on the Zak McConnell Stage in Hancock Park, there will be a kick-off session by Melanie Knauff at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday morning in the MainStage Tent. A storytelling workshop with Chetter Galloway and Esther Culver will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon in Uncle Woodrow's Workshop Tent on East Main Street. 
Dance Exhibitions
  * On Saturday only, dance teams from the John C. Campbell Folk School will perform at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the plaza in front of the Dahlonega Visitors Center. The Brasstown Morris Dancers and Band and the Kudzu Kickers from Murphy, N.C. will perform a mixed set of traditional English Morris Dancing and Appalachian Clogging.
Jamming on the Square
  * Jamming on the Square will continue throughout the weekend. In addition, several musicians affiliated with the John C. Campbell Folk School will be playing in the Folk School booth/tent area of the Marketplace from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1:30-3 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. David Liden, Annie Fain Barralon, Emolyn Liden and Martha Owen, all from Brasstown, N.C., will host an Old-Time Music Jam, and Geoff Hohwald and Rick Taylor, both from Atlanta, will host a Bluegrass Music Jam.
Free Workshops, Jams and Demos
  * Free workshops for festival goers who want to learn more about various aspects of music will take place on both Saturday and Sunday in Uncle Dave's Workshop Tent and Uncle Woodrow's Workshop Tent. Subjects of workshops range from Beginning Penny Whistle, to a Ukulele Jam, to Canadian Fiddle Styles. 
Open Mic 
  * An Open Mic event with professional musician Erick Jones as emcee will take place on Saturday afternoon in Uncle Dave's Workshop Tent. 
Old-Time Mountain Dance
  * The Beary Good String Band will play and John Kelley will do the calling for an Old-Time Mountain Dance at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Visitors Center Plaza.

Admission is free to all Saturday and Sunday events. Complete information about the Bear festival, including schedules of activities, names of performers and artists, a listing of sponsors, and other information can be found at

Bear on the Square Mountain Festival, Inc., which stages the festival each year, is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit cultural arts organization dedicated to preserving the culture of the Southern Appalachian region, including music, art and crafts, and folklife. Tax deductible donations to help the organization pay for producing the show each year are welcome and can be sent to P.O. Box 1015, Dahlonega, GA 30533.

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