If you've ever heard Bill Monroe sing Blue Moon of Kentucky or enjoyed the soundtrack to Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? for its sweet melodies, then the Bluegrass bug bit your musical soul. You can act on that bug in more ways than just buying records. Bluegrass can bite your travel bug just as hard. All over the country, Bluegrass festivals are like picking parties where people lie on blankets drinking less powerful libations than moon shine before retiring to camp sites where avid listeners pick up their own mandolins and banjos to pick string instruments into the night. The country's biggest Bluegrass festivals are as close as you can get to old time country music without time travel.
Bill Monroe's Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival (tel. 800/414-4677; www.beanblossom.com) is the Granddaddy of festivals. Held from June 11-18, 2005, in Bean Blossom, Indiana, just an hour drive from Indianapolis or a two-hour drive from Cincinnati, the Bean Blossom Fest is conveniently the site of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. Being the birthplace of the legendary Monroe, Bean Blossom has other Monroe-worthy sites such as Bill's boyhood cabin. The festival website can give you directions to all local sites and things to do. Musical guests of the festival include old school favorites such as the Osborne Brothers and the James King Band. Shows are rain and shine, so reserve a campsite early. The Bill Monroe Memorial Music Park and Campgrounds is open from May till November. You can also rent rustic log cabins for more convenience than sleeping under the stars in a tent or in your trailer. See the site for ticket ordering and campground information.
Indianapolis is home to ATA (tel. 800/435-9282; www.ata.com) so specials can be had to the Bluegrass Capital of the world all year round. Currently, the airlines is offering round-trip flights from Chicago for $78, from Orlando for $118, and from Dallas for $178. These prices are only good through February 17, 2005 and they must be purchased on the website by January 10, 2005. Check back throughout the winter for spring and summer deals.
If you live on the East Coast, for example, the Grey Fox Bluegrass (tel. 888/946-8495; www.greyfoxbluegrass.com) in the upstate New York town of Ancramdale regularly boasts such world-renowned Bluegrass acts as Earl Scruggs, Ricky Scraggs and the Del McCoury Band. Held from July 14-17, 2005 on Rothvoss Farm, this Festival in its 29th year has fiddling camps for kids and huge barbecue tents for good grubbing. Like most good Bluegrass festival websites, this one provides links to local lodging options and driving directions. Located in Columbia County New York adjacent to Massachusetts Berkshire Mountains, the area surrounding Ancramdale has many pretty inns and bed and breakfasts. Most like the Churchill House (tel. 518/766-5852; www.churchillhousebb.com) in New Lebanon, NY are old farmhouses with rates from $100 to $175 dollars. Tickets for the full four days of the festival will come to around $120 with day passes available on a limited basis weeks before the event. Seating is usually on a first-come first-serve basis as viewers bring blankets. As with most Bluegrass festivals, children under the age of 12 get in for free. The Boston, Hartford and New York airports are the most proximate to the festival grounds, although all are fairly long rides. If you plan on camping, check out the sites "What to Bring" section (www.greyfoxbluegrass.com/gf_bring.cfm).
For yearlong information on the Bluegrass travel and festival circuit, the website www.ibluegrass.com has festival dates and updated information on albums and musicians. It's a great place to see if there are any events near you. The site lists much smaller and more accessible festivals across the country. Sponsored by guitar manufacturers such as Martin, Gibson or Taylor, these events include local musicians and are sometimes headlined by a well-known national acts making high-level Bluegrass accessible to just about anyone. Just the way it was meant to be.
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