The Mountain Times

°F Fri, April 25, 2014

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Labor Day folk and blues played throughout central Vermont

The sun was out and there was live music. Fiddles, mandolins, acoustic guitars and the deep resonance of the stand up bass were heard in many Vermont valleys this weekend.

The wooden instruments came alive in their minstrel's hands as if they too, were content to be within reach of changing maples and oak trees covering the surrounding Green Mountains. People danced barefoot in the grass or lounged in the shade toe-tapping and clapping in time with the beat.

Smoke from BBQ drifted up to the blue sky carrying mouth watering aroma out into the crowds. Smiling children danced and ran in circles to their own timing which sometimes coincided with the musicians own. An idyllic Labor Day celebration if there ever was one. The near perfect weather brought out the music and festival lovers. Tents were pitched for the weekend, and thoughts of work drifted into the hills carried along on the notes of new and old-timey folk and bluegrass.

Two shows stood out this Labor Day weekend: The North Branch Bluegrass Festival in Bridgewater and Plymouth Folk and Blues.
North Branch Bluegrass was celebrating its fifth year. While the crowds had lightened up by Sunday, the music continued on. The festival had a long list of bands that played throughout the weekend. The Woedoggies, Sweetgrass, Granny's Hot Sauce, The Dusty Pilgrims and Flat Top Trio are just a few who graced the stage.

The stage itself was brand new. The last stage to sit in its place was washed into the tree line and smashed to splinters the day before last years festival by Tropical Storm Irene. In fact, the entire valley were the crowds had set up their tents and campers for the weekend had been under a few feet of water at this time last year.

Heather and Randy Kennedy who own the land and put on the Festival with the help of area sponsors, including The Mountain Times, put forth a Herculean effort to clear their valley of the debris the storm left and get this years concert up and running once again. They have been through much this past year and were happy to see everyone who showed up for the fun.

The festival was a four-day event and Heather declared that it was an "emotionally successful festival" for them and all who volunteered to put the festival on. What was river bed last year, was now green grass underfoot again.

The parking area had campers of different sizes and colors. Their were flags rippling in the breeze and folks lounging in the sun. When the stage became dark and quiet in the evening. The bands could be heard around campfires in the night. The performers were not day trippers. They stayed for the weekend, too.

South of Bridgewater, in Plymouth, another well known musical event was happening on something of a smaller scale. The Plymouth Folk and Blues Concert took place Saturday and Sunday afternoon within the open compound of the President Calvin Coolidge State Historical sight. It make one wonder if Coolidge was a fan of folk music? His mustache indicates he was.

Music fans in Plymouth gathered on the grass and in folding chairs for some good string music. The scene was all green grass and raw barn wood. Old stone walls and plenty of sunshine.

The stage was behind one of the big old barns which housed farming equipment and horse and buggy displays. This year marks its eight year at the Coolidge sight and the festival has been nominated as one of the top 10 fall events by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce.

In addition to the music, there was BBQ and cheese tasting. Blankets were laid on the plush grass and were sprawled upon.
It was a different crowd than the multi-day festivalgoers in Bridgewater, but many came out to enjoy the good folk and blues under the late summer sun. Artists included Jesse Terry, Lowel Thompson, Alastair Moock, The Jason Spooner Band, and Mare Wakefield. A walk around the entire historical sight kept you within earshot of the music and made for a perfect lazy summer afternoon.

As with all good things, there must be an end. The good weather lasted throughout the festivities and the bands are now heading to their next gigs. Fans are left with tunes buzzing in their heads and thoughts of "hot footin' it" to a fast fiddle.

Holiday weekend weather is always a roll of the dice in these parts, but this year it came through with flying summer colors of golden late day sunlight and deep blue skies dotted with white. The grass underneath bare dancing feet was plush with a healthy summer color.

What better way to formally say goodbye to summer than kickin' up your heels to the summertime fiddle.