Welcome back to Mulberry Mountain! Yonder Mountain’s Harvest Fest wrapped up this weekend with lots of smiling faces and stompin’ feet. Ozark, Arkansas was definitely the place to be this time of year, but for those of you who missed out, here’s a little recap.
Those returning to Mulberry Mountain may have been expecting something like Wakarusa (which was held in the same location), however, Harvest Fest was worlds apart in almost every way. One of the most obvious differences could be seen at the gates. The traffic leading up to the entrance at Waka was at a virtual standstill for miles, making the festy goers wait for hours to get to Will call or the security checkpoint, but this was not the case for Harvest. The lines were minimal and security moved relatively quickly. The only thing to be aware of is that the gates are closed at midnight every night, so if you are traveling from far away, try not to cut the timing too close or you could find yourself waiting around ’til 8 a.m. If you do arrive at a time when the gates are closed there is a little “holding” area where you can pull off and chill while you wait to get in. If you find yourself bored while waiting on the gates you can mosey on down to the river to catch a beautiful view and maybe make some new friends.
Once you enter the grounds it’s time to find a good spot to camp. Most of the campgrounds are void of natural shade so it’s a good idea to make your own with some tarps, shade tents, or umbrella tents to stay cool during the weekend. The exception to this is the VIP campground which has lots of trees and room for RV’s and pop-ups. One lesson we learned this time around was to stake down everything immediately. This is usually a smart idea anyway, but given the fact that we had been up for over 28 hours we were so focused on a nap that we completely forgot this rule of thumb. We pulled the air mattress into the shade and enjoyed a few hours of sleep only to wake up to a giant easy up flying over our heads, across the car (leaving a dent and giant scratch by the way), and landing on the tent of an unsuspecting neighbor trying to read her book in peace. Sorry! But the lesson is that on top of Mulberry in the fall, the wind is powerful, so stake down EVERYTHING as soon as possible to avoid these mishaps.
The temperatures are not too intense this time of year, which is another huge difference from Waka. Those of you who remember the harsh sunlight and unrelenting heat of Wakarusa will be pleasantly surprised by the beautiful Harvest weather. With temperatures in the high 70’s during the day, in the 50’s at night, and cool breezes flowing constantly through the grounds, the weather can only be described as absolutely perfect. I have become accustomed to getting very little sleep during festivals, however, to my surprise we were able to get plenty of peaceful sleep during Harvest Fest. Because the days were so beautiful, most people started to party very early and wind down by a somewhat normal hour at night. Also, most shows ended by around 1:30 a.m. so there was no need to try and stay up all night. In the morning, the cool breeze provided a peaceful place to snooze, leaving us plenty of time to sleep it off without being woken up by an unforgiving sun.
We certainly needed it after jumping around all day! The lineup this year was an excellent array of phenomenal bluegrass from start to finish. Harvest Fest housed a main stage, tent stage, and a cozie little backwoods stage. Yonder Mountain String Band headlined the fest and gave us three amazing shows. They played their hearts out and left it all on the stage every night, never slacking off. After attending a press conference with YMSB, it was clear just how much they appreciate and value the fans, trying to create a unique show every time. You can read more about our chat with Yonder in the post “Sittin’ Round Yonder” on this site.
So many other impressive musicians were also a part of this year’s Harvest Fest including the low down dirty Mountain Sprout, the amazing style of That One Guy, and the awesome times provided by Railroad Earth. Perhaps one of the biggest highlights of the weekend was the jaw-dropping scene at Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. It was truly a treat to see such perfect musicianship from a group who are really masters of their craft. I don’t say jaw-dropping lightly, there were literally times when I had to remind myself to close my mouth because I was just staring at them in amazement. What a great bunch of shows!
Perhaps my personal favorite thing about Harvest Fest was the beauty of the crowd in attendance. I have had the pleasure this summer of meeting some great people at shows all over the country, but somehow this festival just had a whole different vibe. I can only assume that the people were so great because bluegrass music has such a wide appeal, and tends to bring out the best in people. It was a true pleasure to see the various walks of life that wandered the mountain throughout the weekend. There were families, hoopers, fire poi, wookies, college kids, and even a clean and sober campground. Music festivals always tend to bring out the community vibe in its crowd, but the sense of togetherness and community really shined at Harvest and reminded me once again of just how lucky we are to be a part of this scene.