And 65 festivals later, top bluegrass acts come out to Gettysburg to treat fans to four days of performances, workshops and frequent jam sessions.
The 65th Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival will kick off at 2 p.m. today and run through Sunday at the Granite Hill Camping Resort.
The twice-annual festival, held in May and August, features a lineup of traditional and contemporary bands, with new performers and old favorites included in the mix.
August's festival will include 43 performances by
25 bands, including Bobby Osborne and The Rocky Top X-Press, Rhonda Vincent and The Rage, The Gibson Brothers, Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out and Dailey and Vincent.
"I like the fact that they always have a good lineup every year," said musician Michael Cleveland, who will be playing at the festival on Saturday with his band Flamekeeper, "and it's just so cool to see old friends in the other bands and the fans that we play for. It's one of those festivals with a lot of history behind it."
And some of the bands have a long history with the festival. Two of the bands, Dry Branch Fire Squad and The Seldom Scene, have been included in almost every festival lineup and continue to be fan favorites at Gettysburg.
"It is absolutely a tradition for the band," said The Seldom Scene's singer and guitar player, Dudley Connell. "It's just a great festival and I think it's become one of the premier festivals."
The festival was started in 1979 by Joe and Lil Cornett, the former owners of Granite Hill Camping Resort. Joe Cornett set out to bring the top acts in bluegrass to Gettysburg and provide his audience with a relaxed but safe environment.
Joe and Lil Cornett continued to run the festival and campground until 2002, when they passed both on to their daughter and son-in-law, Cyndie and Rich Winklemann.
As more days were added to the festival, bands that play on the main stage also began leading a variety of workshops for fans throughout the four days.
Coordinated by Mike and Gay Henderson, of Shepherdstown, W.Va., the workshops are held from Thursday through Saturday and are free to all festival participants.
The topics of the sessions focus on everything from songwriting to jamming and instrumentation on the primary acoustic instruments used in bluegrass. The tent also serves as the site of the popular "All Star Jam," a jam session that brings together members of different bands performing at Gettysburg.
While there are several workshops for the youngest generation of pickers, the August festival also features the Gettysburg Bluegrass Academy for Kids. From Thursday to Sunday, instructors with music backgrounds offer lessons on the primary instruments of bluegrass for kids in kindergarten through 12th grade at a cost of $25 per child.
The academy culminates in a performance on the main stage on Sunday.
One-day and multiple-day tickets are still available for the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival and can be purchased at the gate with cash only.
If You Go:
WHAT: Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival
WHEN: Today through Sunday
WHERE: Granite Hill Camping Resort, 3340 Fairfield Road, Gettysburg