A weekend of field pickin' tunes in a four-day camper town approaches as the Upper Hudson Bluegrass Festival returns to the Ski Bowl Park for its eighth year from Aug. 18-21.
Among the performers is David Nichols and Spare Change, from Whippleville, outside Malone.
“We’re regionally known and marginally famous,” said Nichols.
Nichols runs a guitar inlay shop that's embellished and built guitars for the likes of B.B. King, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard.
A bluegrass festival is basically a giant campout, said Nichols. Attendees like to sit near their camper and play music while listening to the stage. Having someone to play with at your campsite is as big a draw as the stage performers, said Nichols.
The bluegrass festival season runs from April to October. It’s special, said Nichols, it’s the way performers like him live their summers. He runs his shop Monday through Wednesday, then heads out for festivals, playing from Maine to Pennsylvania.
His band will donate a Bristol Blue Ridge guitar to be raffled off at the event, a custom for them when playing festivals.
It’s a small festival, but we all know each other, said Nichols, “it’s like a family reunion.”
When Nichols stops into the North Creek festival, “I know where I’ll park, I know who’ll park behind me.”
It’s like a community, he said, you know where you live, you know who your neighbors are, and you’re friendly with most everybody. He added that he avoids people who want to talk his ear off.
He said much like other performers, his band will wander around the campers and play songs, have a sandwich with the owners, move to another camper, or split up to mingle. Rusty Leigh, who's helped organize the event since it began, called this practice field picking.
The festival wasn't very big the first year, “as a matter of fact it was quite small,” with nine bands playing for three days.
The four-day format launched last year. In previous weekends, the organizers found that there would be dozens of campers ready to roll to their parking places Thursday, though music didn't start until Friday. So they figured, why not get the stage playing a little earlier, said Leigh.
Joel Beaudin, who first thought North Creek could put on a successful blugrass festival and has worked tirelessly to make it so has stepped back from his responsibilities this year, said Leigh, though he'll help park cars.
Main street sees a bump when the visitors are in town, said Leigh, and there will be shuttles from the Ski Bowl Park to Main Street.
There will also be a train promotion, where visitors can buy a ticket for the hour-and-a-half the train is in town for $10.
They also sell discounted all-day Saturday tickets to seniors at the meal site for $12.
We like to make a little money, said Leigh, because we give it all away. The not-for-profit show only retains enough money to run the next year, and the rest is donated to community organizations, schools, the Outreach Center and the North Country Ministry, which helps with home heating.
Leigh hires the bands, attending other festivals and approaching bands that seem like a good fit; he's already started looking for next year's bands.
Leigh said all the music's good, but they have a few bands that are especially noteworthy. The James King Band has been recognized several times by the International Bluegrass Association. Leigh's also excited about Goldwing Express of Missouri and Remington Ryde of Pennsylvania.
“I'm very fussy about the people I hire to play,” said Leigh.
Though he likes to stick to a traditional bluegrass format, Leigh's open to suggestion. A survey is distributed to attendees so they can suggest a band to bring to the festival, and he'll hire on bands he personally isn't too keen on if there's enough audience interest.
Upper Hudson Blugrass Festival
Advance tickets: $50 per person
At the gate: $60
Thursday evening: $10
Friday: $25 all day, $10 after 5 p.m.
Saturday: $25 all day, $10 after 5 p.m.
Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m.
Cedar Ridge, Dave Nichols & Spare Change, Rivergrass.
Friday, 9:45 a.m. To 10 p.m.
The James King Band, HoneyGrass, Acoustic Blue, Remington Ryde, Cedar Ridge, Rivergrass, American Roots, Dave Nichols & Spare Change.
Saturday, 9 a.m. To 10 p.m.
Goldwing Express, The James King Band, Remington Ryde, Acoustic Blue, HoneyGrass, The Atkinson Family, Smokey Greene, the Cabin Fever Band, American Roots.
Sunday, 9 a.m, park closes at 4:15 p.m.
Gospel hymn sing with Mike and Mary Robinson. Also performing on Sunday; Smokey Greene, HoneyGrass, The Atkinson Family, American Roots, the Cabin Fever Band.
Four-day tickets include camper parking and fresh water fill-up, with a septic pump available Sunday for $15.
Advance tickets may be ordered by sending check or money order payable to Upper Hudson Festivals, Inc., along with a SASE to; Mr. Larry Carr P. O. Box 233, North Creek, NY 12853.