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Georgia Mountain Laurel Magazine

22nd Annual Bear on the Square

Apr 10, 2018 12:00PM ● By Tracy McCoy

The 22nd annual Appalachian heritage festival in Dahlonega will be staged, rain or shine, in and around the town's Historic Public Square the third weekend of April. Here is a rundown of highlights for the 2018 Bear on the Square Mountain Festival:

Friday, April 20
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 20, 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 musician Curtis Jones & the Primal Roots band beginning at 5:30 p.m., and the live auction will get underway at 7 p.m. Special guests this year will be several locals, including Lumpkin County's current sheriff, who will give personal accounts of the day in 1996 when a mamma bear and her cubs wandered onto the Dahlonega square.

Saturday and Sunday, April 21 and 22
Music in the MainStage Tent
  * Performances by 11 well-known bands and individual musicians are scheduled in the MainStage Tent throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday. This year's lineup of MainStage performers includes Front Country, Zoe and Cloyd, Jonathan Byrd, Harpeth Rising, Jeff Mosier, Crooked Mile, Wil Maring and Robert Bowlin, Chuck Nation, Ugly Cousin, Good in the Kitchen, and Georgia Pick & Bow students. 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 second 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 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 107 booths with 92 of these locations containing the work of these artists and craftsmen, among them 27 exhibitors new to Bear. The Marketplace will also have a First Aid tent and booths for exhibiting sponsors, festival information, the Weekend Gold Miners, and the Georgia Pick & Bow Traditional Music School. Tents for several organizations and various kids' activities will be located in Hancock Park.

  * The Southern Appalachian oral art of storytelling has been added to the Bear lineup in recent years, and the Southern Order of Storytellers has compiled a lineup of storytellers for Saturday. While most of the storytellers will appear on the Zak McConnell Stage in Hancock Park, there will be a kick-off session, an Appalachian Storytelling Sampler with Debbie From, at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday morning in the MainStage Tent. A storytelling workshop, Storytelling 3.0: Sights, Sounds, and Samples for The Art of Listening with Chetter Galloway will take place at 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon in Uncle Woodrow's Workshop Tent on East Main Street. Saturday night, an event entitled Bare Tales, which is recommended for those 17 and older because of adult themes, will feature Natalie Jones, Melanie Knauff and Shannon McNeall and will take place from 9:45 until 10:30 p.m. in the MainStage Tent. 

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 Woodrow's Workshop Tent, Canvas & Cork annex, and Hancock Park. Subjects of workshops range from Old-Time Harmony Singing, to Clogging, to The Origins and Evolution of Appalachian Music and Dance, to Poetry, and more. 

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. Performing this year will be the Dame's Rocket NW Clog Morris team, Sticks in the Mud Border Morris team, Rural Felicity Garland team, Magic Rapper sword team, and the band.

Open Mic 
  * An Open Mic event with professional musician Erick Jones as emcee will take place on Saturday afternoon from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at the Zak McConnell Stage in Hancock Park.. 

Old-Time Mountain Dance
  * Whistlin' Rufus will play and Doug Singleton will do the calling for an Old-Time Mountain Dance at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Visitors Center Plaza.

Jamming on the Square
  * Jamming on the Square will continue throughout the weekend. 

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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