4-day music fest brings out the ‘Dead’ fans

HUGHESVILLE – For four days and nights, music filled the air at the Lycoming County Fairgrounds while hundreds of people had a picnic. A Bears Picnic, to be exact.

The music festival, in its eighth year, made its first appearance in Hughesville over this past weekend. Dark Star Orchestra, a Grateful Dead tribute band, opened up on Thursday night, and more than 20 artists followed them in playing for picnickers until Sunday night, when Cabinet, a string band out of Wilkes-Barre, closed the show with some riproaring Appalachian rock and roll.

Though the “bears” in Bears Picnic refers to the Grateful Dead, and “Shakedown Street” was played like a national anthem throughout the weekend, there were plenty of different sounds available to the listening ear.

Bands sharing the main stage included country rockers New Riders of the Purple Sage and The Wailers and groups featuring nationally known musicians like Jeff Pehrson, John Kadlecik, Mark Karan and George Porter Jr., who played alongside plenty of musicians who gig hard around the Susquehanna Valley – like the Rumpke Mountain Boys, Willie Jack and the Northern Light, and Backwoods Experiment.

When it was time to let the neighbors sleep, the jamming went inside the largest exhibition building until dawn.

Residents outside their homes on Sunday afternoon along Broadway didn’t have much negative to say about the festival affecting their quality of life.

“At first I said, ‘what is that noise?’ then I asked the neighbors and they said it’s a music festival,” said Tanya Stugart. “It echoes in my bathroom some, but it’s not bothering me that much.”

“I think the hype was a lot worse than what happened,” said Rick German, out tending his lawn which abuts the Fairgrounds. “People saying ‘there will be all these people.’ I don’t mind the music, it’s no worse than the fair. If it bothers us we can shut the windows, turn on the air, and we don’t hear a thing.”

“This is the action end of town,” said Jane Miller. “We live here because we love the fair.”

“Things have been relatively quiet,” Mayor Walter Reed said on Monday afternoon.

“I just got home from vacation, and I didn’t have any messages from anybody.”

Sam Cutler, once a tour manager for the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead, who was at the festival to promote his memoirs, took on some of the MC duties on Sunday and asked the crowd whether they’d like to return to Hughesville for another picnic.

“This is a beautiful place and I hope we’ll see you all here next year,” he said.