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Annual Dahlonega festival promises to be a bear-y good time
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Bear on the Square
What: Mountain festival with music, arts and other events
When: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Mainstage events, Hancock Park; other events downtown Dahlonega square
How much: $15 to the mainstage tent area, Sunday morning and other activities are free, all tickets are sold at the festival

The Bear on the Square Mountain Festival in Dahlonega attracted 50,000 people last year while promoting traditional Appalachian music and art.

Those goals continue with this year’s festival, along with a slate of dancing, a country auction, a gospel music concert and even activities for the children. The 14th annual Bear on the Square Mountain Festival kicks off Friday.

Old-time and bluegrass legends will be featured Friday through Sunday under the Mainstage tent in Hancock Park, just a block off the square in Dahlonega. The square itself will feature traditional music jams; a juried artist’s marketplace will feature traditional mountain art and crafts, and there will be music workshops. Friday night features a live country auction, Saturday night has a street dance and Sunday morning there will be a gospel jam.

Top bluegrass musicians like Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper and Jesse McReynolds also will take the stage to perform their favorites.

“Michael has been the International Bluegrass Music Association’s fiddler of the year like seven out of the last nine years, and then his band has two other people in the band that won awards for their particular instrument this past year,” said Jimmy Booth, Bear on the Square representative. “Jesse McReynolds, he and his brother had a famous brother duo called Jim and Jesse for years, and he’s been a member of the Grand Ole Opry for several decades. He’s a mandolin player and invented a new method of playing the mandolin that a lot of people have gone to.”

Other mainstage performances will be from The Dixie Bee-Liners, Ginny Hawker and Tracy Schwarz with Kari Sickenberger, Curtis Jones and Mountain Gypsy Project, and John Lilly, among others.

Local musicians will start gathering on the Dahlonega square Friday afternoon to jam with others. Everyone is welcome to bring a chair, an instrument and find a group to play with.

“On Friday people already will be in town jamming around the square. They bring their instruments and find a group and just sit down and start playing,” Booth said

The artist marketplace is one of the best events featured at the festival, according to Booth.

“It’s a juried event which features Appalachian crafts,” he said. “Just about everything to do with Bear on the Square promotes the Appalachian culture and makes sure that the traditional music and art of the mountains doesn’t go away.”

Which also is the goal of the Pick and Bow kids, who will perform Saturday morning, along with children’s activities.

“They have something every year called Goldilocks and the Three Bears on the Square and then there’s a teddy bear picnic,” Booth said. “Then we also have something called a little pickers tent ... you can go in and ... kids can actually hold the instruments and hit some strings and play notes. We’ve got a couple of people who are experienced musicians that will go in a show them how to do a few things.”

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