DURHAM — Bluegrass music lovers came from all over the country to dance and play in what turned out to be a muddy second day at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival 2017 Friday.
With rain falling on and off all day, a scene — an uncanny allusion to Woodstock 1969 — built up around a large tent filled with the sounds of guitars, basses and banjos.
“I love bluegrass. I live, sleep and breathe it,” said Emery Smith, of Connecticut, who is a 30-year veteran of the festival. “In the old days my favorite bluegrass artists were Lester Flatt and Bill Monroe. Lester did the theme song for “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
Smith came to see the Del McCoury Band and the Steep Canyon Rangers among the 45 acts slated to perform through Sunday.
“I used to bring my kids to the festival, but now they are older and have moved on,” Smith said.
Smith was camping at Walsh Farm in Oak Hill where the festival is being held with his friend Dave Perrelli, of Florida.
“It’s my first time and I love it,” Perrelli said.
“I dragged him along. After I die he is going to take my place and hold up the tradition,” Smith said.
A lot of the people attending the festival are at least 10-year veteran fans who went to the festival and kept coming back even after having children.
“It is very family-oriented,” said Jodi Locke, of the Berkshires, who was attending the festival for the 13th year. “We started coming here before we had kids and used to say this would be a fun festival if we had kids.”
Friday, Locke was camping at the festival with her 7-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter. “They’ve been coming since they were 9 months old,” Locke said.
“We camped every year starting in tents and now we have an RV,” she said. “The children’s activities are great and keep them occupied.”
The festival shows movies at night and offers tie-dye and other arts and crafts for children during the day.
“My husband and I really like the late night dance tent,” Locke said. “It is a different kind of fun than we used to have at the festival, but it is a lot of fun.”
The festival moved across the river from Hillsdale in Columbia County to Greene County in 2008 and people were saying they liked bluegrass at the farm rather than on a mountain.
“We like this location better,” Locke said. “The original location was steep and hilly and made it hard to camp.”
Erik Webb and Suzanne Kranock, of New York City, agreed the flat land is a better location for the festival.
“We like it here. The last location was an insane hill,” Webb said. “People are sliding sideways on the mud here. They would be slipping down a hill at the other place.”
Webb and Kranock have a place in the Catskills.
“It’s just a great party. The people are here for the music,” Webb said. “Everybody knows and plays the standards and keeps the tradition going. These people know the music.”
Webb said there are musicians at the festival who are not in the lineup.
“You have to wander around the campsite at night. There are people playing music everywhere,” Webb said. “There could be a great player camping right next to you.”
Kranock said the people attending the festival are as mellow as the music is at times electrifying.
“With all these people here you would think, but there are never any problems,” she said.