One word comes to mind when Christa Stewart thinks about bringing back the NEPA Bluegrass Festival: ecstatic.
After taking a year off because of the coronavirus pandemic, the festival returns to Tunkhannock’s LazyBrook park for a long weekend of music, camping, workshops and more.
“It’s promising to be a good year,” said Stewart, who organizes the event with her husband, Danny. “I think we have had our normal folks are coming back, and we have a lot of new people that are expressing interest.”
The festival grounds open the night of Thursday, June 3, for campers, and the music begins the following day and runs through Sunday, June 6.
“Bluegrass people can’t wait to be around a campfire and pick and jam and just be outdoors,” Stewart said.
The festival will have a progressive stage and a traditional stage, with acts performing throughout the days on both. Stewart said they are particularly looking forward to bringing Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver to the main stage. Lawson has won Grammy awards, and the group was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame. The band will perform two sets and close out Saturday, and this will be one of the last times the public will have to hear Lawson live.
“We didn’t know that when we hired him, actually, during the pandemic, but he is going to be retiring after the 2021,” Stewart said.
On Friday, the audience will get to hear the Malpass Brothers, a duo from North Carolina that Stewart said does “a beautiful rendition of classic old country (and) bluegrass” in flashy rhinestone jackets. They also will perform two sets, including Friday’s final one.
“They’re a fun brother act, and they’re really on top of their game nationally with what they’re doing,” Stewart said.
Other headliners include Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike, the Little Roy and Lizzy Show, the Dave Adkins Band, Sideline and Seth Mulder & Midnight Run Bluegrass.
The progressive stage gives acts “who maybe want to go outside that box” of traditional bluegrass a chance to perform, Stewart noted. Audiences can head there to hear from acts such as the Hillbilly Gypsies, a high-energy husband-and-wife act from West Virginia, and Altoona-based band Mama Corn.
Also on Saturday, visitors can bring their own instruments to several workshops: banjo, 11 a.m.; beginning guitar, noon; upright bass, 1 p.m.; guitar maintenance, 2; mandolin, 3; and fiddle, 4. Sunday’s action opens with a bluegrass singing jam hosted by a pair of bluegrass missionaries who travel to festivals across the country.
Stewart also advised guests to “come hungry,” as they will have lots of food on hand, from barbecue and seafood to pizza, ice cream and vegan options.
Organizers this year are honoring tickets purchased for the 2020 festival, which did not take place because of the coronavirus pandemic. Weekend passes are available in advance for $90 and include free camping. Electric sites have sold out, but rough camping spots remain available, and the Stewarts will have designated generator areas to power camping vehicles.
Weekend passes will be available at the gate, too, as will single-day tickets from Friday through Sunday. Those cost $35 on Friday and Saturday and $20 on Sunday. Children 12 to 16 pay half price, and children under 12 enter for free with a paying adult.
Camping passes purchased at the gate cost $5 per adult per night.
As for COVID-19 precautions, anyone attending the festival must comply with current mandates from Pennsylvania and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Our policy in our program states that if you have been fully vaccinated, you do not have to wear a mask and you do not have to socially distance,” Stewart said. “If you have not been fully vaccinated, then obviously you do have to wear a mask and you do have to socially distance.”
If you go
- What: NEPA Bluegrass Festival
- When: Thursday, June 3, through Sunday, June 6
- Where: Lazy Brook Park, Tunkhannock
- Details: Ticket prices vary, and packages are available. Visit nepabluegrass.com for tickets and more information.
Caitlin Heaney West is the content editor for Access NEPA and oversees the Early Access blog in addition to working as a copy editor and staff writer for The Times-Tribune. An award-winning journalist, she is a summa cum laude graduate of Shippensburg University and also earned a master’s degree from Marywood University. Caitlin joined the Times-Shamrock family in 2009 and lives in Scranton. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100 x5107; or @cheaneywest