Music in the Mountains: Bluegrass festival starts Thursday

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MANCHESTER — The Northshire will be humming and strumming with acoustic melodies beginning on Thursday, when the inaugural Green Mountain Bluegrass and Roots Festival kicks off at Manchester's Hunter Park.

The festival takes place over four days, just steps away from the town's center, organizers and town officials alike are hopeful that the new Festival will add to Manchester's growing events calendar — bringing business and new visitors along with it.

"We feel so strongly that this type of festival will be so good for this town, and the town so good for our attendees," said Jill Turpin, who organized the festival with her husband John. "We have people coming from Canada, England, Mexico [and] Arizona A goal for us has been to introduce this area to people from all over, and to highlight it so that people come back again and again in all seasons."

"It's well positioned in our overall community schedule — just after the horse show, and before Labor Day and foliage — so I think that the Festival will bring a significant number of out of state visitors to Manchester, [which] will have a large economic impact from hotels and motels, meals and shopping," added Town Manager John O'Keefe. "It will also add to Manchester's increasing reputation as a town to visit and move to. These sorts of cultural events help maintain our community's vibrancy."

But what, exactly, will the first Green Mountain Bluegrass and Roots Festival entail? According to Turpin, the four day festival will feature "a variety

of bluegrass, roots and Americana music from both icons of the industry and innovative up-and-coming artists," on the festival's main stage at Hunter Park, with grounds opening at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

Music will last all day and into the night, she says, and will be augmented by a dance tent, camping, kids activities, local food trucks, and Vermont craft beer and wine. Aiming to bring together the "titans of today's bluegrass, roots, and Americana music" in the interest of collaboration, the festival will draw more than 20 artists to the stage.

The eclectic lineup includes Peter Rowan, a bluegrass veteran who played with legends Bill Monroe and Jerry Garcia; Molly Tuttle, the first woman to be nominated for and win the International Bluegrass Music Association's guitar player of the year award; and International Bluegrass Music Association mandolin player of the year Sierra Hull, whose most recent album was produced by Bela Fleck.

Among the artists joining them are multi-instrumentalist duo Mandolin Orange, veteran Americana roots rock band Donna The Buffalo; North Carolina-based Americana band Mipso; and local favorites Saints and Liars, among many others. (For a full lineup, check out the festival website.)

"This isn't a typical straight bluegrass fest," Turpin explained. "We wanted to book bands that are inspired by bluegrass and roots but think outside the box and draw from other genres as well — be it folk, jazz, or Americana — and they all do that. They are all so unique and amazing that we still can't believe they will be playing on our stage."

For musicians, festivals offer a unique opportunity to meet, hear and collaborate with their peers. Donna The Buffalo plays a lot of them every summer, and even started their own, in the Finger Lakes region of New York, explained band member Tara Nevins.

"There's something about a festival," she said. "it's a wonderful positive breeding ground for good things —communiuty, good vibes, all of that."

Hull, who found out after she was booked for the festival that many of her friends would be there, said collaboration comes naturally among musicians in the string music genre.

"When you've spent years and years doing it, it becomes this fun group of friends," she said. "It's what makes this music scene pretty special."

The addition of more live music to the arts scene is appreciated by the festival's hosts.

"We always hear how badly this area needs live music, and Jill and John are providing that," said John Larson of the Northshire Civic Center. "They had a vision of bringing something wonderful to Southern Vermont, specifically Manchester, and they fell in love with Hunter Park."

Turpin adds that the festival has found an ideal home at Larson's Northshire Civic Center, where those camping at the adjoining Hunter Park will be able to enjoy showers and breakfast. With attendance capped at approximately 1,700 people per day, the park will "easily accommodate" attendees, volunteers, and performers, she says.

The festival's two entrances (from Routes 30 and 7A, respectively) will help reduce any impact on traffic flow according to O'Keefe, and attendees are expected to come and go throughout the day. Taking place within walking distance of downtown Manchester, Turpin hopes that the festival will have a positive economic impact on the town — which served as a muse for the event itself.

"We love this town, everything about it, and that has been a huge inspiration for us," she said. "The mountain views everywhere you look, the food, hotels, galleries, shopping and people It's not often that you have these festivals right in the town center like this, so our audience coming from far away will be thrilled to have such a vibrant town to enjoy."

"It will be great for the local economy," Larson added. "These are the type of events that, with the proper support, could be here for years to come."

Turpin has similar hopes for the festival's longevity in the Northshire.

"We have been talking to local establishments about booking more music throughout the year so that we continue the already great music scene here," she explained. "We've booked one of our artists for The Mill in Arlington this October, so we are definitely realizing our goal."


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