Start the Memorial Day weekend early with DelFest, Del McCoury's big and bold festival that starts May 21 and finishes up late (very late) May 24.
DelFest is all about family entertainment, food, spirits, and bluegrass, bluegrass, bluegrass. Created by York's own McCoury, the festival's family atmosphere and the location at Allegany County Fairgrounds in Cumberland, Md., are important elements to him.
The first time he saw the fairgrounds, "he looked around and said, 'This kind of reminds me of a mini Telluride (Colo.),'" said Rebecca Sparks, DelFest spokesperson. It's a picturesque location, along the Potomac River with the Appalachian Mountains as a backdrop.
Fan favorites from the first seven years of the festival will take the stage, including Old Crow Medicine Show, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Trampled by Turtles, Greensky Bluegrass and the Steep Canyon Rangers.
Among the first-timers at the festival are Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers. "They're just breaking into the national scene," Sparks said. Their sound is Americana, "straight up feel-good music."
Music starts around 4:30 p.m. May 21 with McCoury's soundcheck, and bluegrass groups pick all the way to 3:30 a.m. May 22 with a performance by Railroad Earth.
And that's just Day 1.
The Del McCoury Band, the Travelin' McCourys (which doesn't include Del McCoury) and the McCoury Brothers are among the long (very long) list of performers. First-timers to the festival are Lake Street Dive, Shovels and Rope, Seldom Scene, and Billy Strings & John Julin.
So what else is there to do for four days?
First, start with food and drinks.
Pete's Concession is open around the clock with everything from breakfast to burgers. A snack booth serves the kind of veggies you can only find at a festival: fried. There's Greek, MIddle Eastern and Asian food, a vegetarian booth, frozen custard, a popcorn stand, and a festival standard: BBQ. Among the vendors are Pie for the People! (pizza) and Grateful Spread.
Troegs and several other breweries will be represented to take care of the ale and lager lovers, and Oyster Bay will provide wine.
Most of the guests camp on the grounds. Camping is somewhat rustic, according to Sparks, but not completely. A building on the fairgrounds has indoor bathrooms and showers. Visitors often dip in the Potomac or ride a tube along the lazy river.
Beyond the music, the real highlight for Sparks is what's available for kids. The Kid Zone is packed with activities. A troupe of giant puppets perform daily (and walk through the festival), and Camille Who? Armstrong, a former performer with Stomp, holds workshops on singing, dancing, acting, drumming and double-dutch jumping. A local community organization brings in a bus that's renovated to become an art studio for kids.
"People come to this event with kids of all ages," Sparks said.
For teens and adults, there are yoga and exercise classes as well as a large art and crafts market with an array of international items, from African instruments to jewelry and clothing from India and Bali.
Workshops -- all part of the admission fee -- go on throughout each day.
"The one that we're most excited about -- and we're excited about them all -- is the mandolin workshop," Sparks said. Young phenom Sierra Hull, David Grisman and Del's son, Ronnie McCoury, will be "just three people on their mandolins, having fun."
The multi-day tickets, available by accessing the DelFest site, include all workshops, the Kid Zone and just about everything but the late-night shows, which require a separate ticket for the limited seating available.