Mid-July is a special time of the year for me. It’s the time when I make my annual pilgrimage to the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival. It’s a journey to a special place where each year a large nondescript hay-field in upstate New York gets transformed into a mecca of bluegrass fans. It’s in this field that a thong of thousands gather for five days to hear, play, sing, and dance to non-stop music.
This is my 16th year of making the journey to New York. I guess that qualifies me as a pilgrim, a devoted fan, or perhaps what some might call a bluegrass music nut job. Whatever. I love bluegrass music and love going to this festival. And, I was in good company as the 4,000 festival camping tickets were sold out.
Camping at the festival is mostly done in tents and it is intense. RV’s are welcome and have their own section (called Generatorville), but there’s few amenities. Water spigots, pot-a-johns, and trash pickup. That’s it. And it’s shoulder to shoulder camping in the hayfield. If you want quiet or privacy, you won’t find it at Grey Fox. If you want some shade, you best bring your own canopy. Mid-July in the foothills of the Catskills is usually steamy.
I brought my RV with its full complement of amenities (bathroom, running water, microwave, A/C if I needed it). I also brought a shade canopy, solar panels for electricity, my own shower stall, solar shower bags, patio rugs, and a bunch of chairs. I had a comfy setup. I also had some great neighbors which made it even more fun. Here’s some pictures of the camping area and my setup.
Having attended for so many years, there’s no reason for me give a full run down of the festival. The festival web site I listed above gives the complete line up. You can view a couple of my prior write-up at these links: 2009 Grey Fox Memories and Where the Grass is Blue. I’ll just note what I considered to be this years highlights.
- I had the best camping neighbors ever. Next to me was the couple from VT who I camped next to last year. They’re great people, easy to talk with, and fun to hang out with. Behind us was a large family from CT who were excellent singers and musicians. I picked with them once but it was better to just listened to them play. They were as good as several of the stage performers and a pleasure to hang out with. Camping around these great people was a real treat.
- Having seen so many acts and headliners over the years, I like to hear the new acts and hear new songs. For me, the best performances were: Front Country, The Lonely Heartstring Band, and Jim Gaudet & The Railroad Boys. The best headliners where Della Mae, The Steel Drivers, and Del McCoury. Here’s a video of Front Country doing a great song.
- The Hillbenders gave the best and most unique performance of all. They did a bluegrass version of the Who’s rock opera Tommy. (They called it a Bluegrass Opry). It was outstanding. The seating area was pretty full for the late afternoon performance. Here’s a video I took of one of the songs. The lead singer was excellent. Unfortunately, the rains came before they could finish all the songs.
- For the past few years, a group of devoted festival attendees, called the Grillbillies, have put on a parade and circled the camping areas. I think for the Grillbillies it’s an excuse to dress up, drink, and show off. It’s a blast to see. Here are some pictures of this years parade.
- For years, the festival had a performance tent focused on music you could dance to. In the past couple of years, its become more of a secondary performance stage for bluegrass bands and the dance bands have all but disappeared. This year, on the last night there was one band (Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers) that played western swing music. I got in a good dose of dancing in with my friends Robin, Susan, and a few others. It was a fun night and a nice way to end the festival.
Overall, it was a great festival. Each year, it seems to get a little better. Other than one rain storm, the weather was great. Over the 5 days, I got to pick some bluegrass, see and hear some great performances, meet and hang out with new people, and do some dancing with friends. I got a little sleep deprived with some late nights, but, hey it’s Grey Fox! I couldn’t have asked for a better time.