Lumpkin Coalition’s fourth annual HemlockFest
When: Friday through Sunday; gates open at 3 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: 326 Starbridge Road, Murrayville (off Ga. 52 E between Dahlonega and Cleveland)
How much: $15 Friday, $25 Saturday, $15 Sunday; students get $5 discount, or a three-day ticket is $50; children younger than 15 get in free
The battle against the tiny woolly adelgid has begun, but it needs reinforcements.
Specifically, reinforcements in the form of thousands of beetles that can protect our North Georgia hemlock trees from being attacked by the aphid-like insects.
Which is where this weekend’s HemlockFest comes in. The event is three days of music, food, natural crafts and outdoor living demonstrations that also help raise money to produce more of the tree-protecting beetles. HemlockFest starts Friday and continues through Sunday at Starbridge Park, on the Hall-Lumpkin county line.
One new aspect of the event this year is a children’s day on Friday, said Murray Lamb, vice chairman of the Lumpkin Coalition, which is sponsoring the event. He said children from Lumpkin County elementary schools will take a field trip to HemlockFest to learn about the life cycle of trees and the basic environment of the North Georgia forest.
"That’s going to be Friday during the day," Lamb said. "And we’re hoping to expand on that more next year, hoping to expand to the counties around here."
The program works with the science curriculum goal for Georgia students, too, he said.
Throughout the weekend, hundreds of bands will take to the stage, ranging from bluegrass to Celtic music. Highlights include Col. Bruce Hampton, Emerald Rose and Ronda Cadle and The String Poets.
"On Sunday afternoon we’ve got Stop, Drop and Roll coming, and usually they’re pretty good," Lamb added.
All proceeds from HemlockFest will be split among three North Georgia labs that are raising beetles to combat the woolly adelgid. There are labs at Young Harris College, North Georgia College & State University and the University of Georgia.
Each lab is raising beetles that will help control the population of the woolly adelgid, an insect from Asia that sucks the sap from hemlocks and kills them in three to six years.
Hemlocks are native to the mountains of North Georgia, but the habitat — and the infected region — runs up through Eastern Maine, Lamb said.
The money is used to pay for supplies in the labs and for personnel to go out in the forest to gather adelgids for the beetles to grow on.
"They have to buy stuff for the adelgids to grow in, they have to pay people to go out in the forest and harvest hemlocks that are infected so the beetles have something to grow on, and all that kind of stuff," Lamb said.
"So we’re trying to keep money going to them so they can maintain what they’re doing."