LAURELTON - People everywhere are invited to gather for the fifth annual Bear's Picnic Music Festival scheduled for Friday through Sunday at Lincoln Park, Route 235, Laurelton.
Drawing from past experience as a festival promoter for the musical event Gathering of the Vibes, Ben Ersham said the concept behind the festival was to provide a family event that celebrates The Grateful Dead and showcases a variety of music.
Recreating some of the magic and excitement of the psychedelic '60s and '70s and beyond, Dark Star Orchestra will perform a show built off the extensive catalog of The Grateful Dead. Song for song, note for note, the band recreates Grateful Dead shows with uncanny accuracy.
Dark Star Orchestra, above, will perform a show that features songs from The Grateful Dead’s catalog at “A Bear’s Picnic,” which will be held Friday through Sunday at Lincoln Park, Route 235, Laurelton.
Touring nationwide for more than 12 years to the beat of more than 1,800 shows, the band's commitment to "raising the Dead" has even caught the attention of charter members. Since forming, five original members of The Grateful Dead have played alongside Dark Star Orchestra during the band's performances.
Drummer Rob Koritz said the performances wouldn't work and the longevity of the band would not be intact if all of the members of the band weren't first and foremost huge fans. He said that nowadays there are a lot of jam bands on the scene because of The Grateful Dead.
"It's the improv factor," he said. "Fans never knew which direction the show would go or where it would end up."
Deciding on a show to perform isn't an easy task either. Koritz said the process is lengthy and many factors are considered, including the size of the stage, past performances and time restraints.
"It's a time-consuming effort," he said. "Questions such as 'Will the stage hold two drummers?' or 'Is there enough room to fit a Hammond B-3 organ?' are raised."
Although the Dead often teased the song "Dark Star," for which the Chicago-based band is named, Dark Star Orchestra enjoys performing it often for fans.
"We opened our last show with it," Korwitz said.
Band members said for most of the festivals, the group practices a process of elective show sets, in which the members decide on a set of songs the day of the performance.
Making an appearance every year since the festival's birth, country-rock band New Riders of the Purple Sage will be back again. The band, which was started by John Dawson and Jerry Garcia in 1969, has seen its fair share of members since forming. Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart, of The Grateful Dead, and Spencer Dryden, of Jefferson Airplane, are some of the many artists who were once part of the band.
In 2009 - and with the blessing of John Dawson prior to his passing - New Riders of the Purple Sage released "Where I Come From," its first studio album in 20 years.
In addition to the aforementioned groups, David Gans, Rumor Has It, The Ronnie Penque Band, Roots of Creation, Cabinet, New York Funk Exchange, Boris Garcia, Lucid, Willie Jack and the Northern Light, Mystery Chain, Waylon Speed and The Kind Buds are all scheduled to perform.
Activities at the festival include late night music, arts and crafts and a children's activity area run by certified instructors. Children's music classes also are scheduled with an onstage performance set for Sunday.
"Every year we grow," said festival organizer Ed Ehrsam. "We even hire specialists to come in and work with the kids."
In addition to the great music, the festival-type atmosphere brings with it a wide array of food and art and crafts vendors.
Added to this year's event is a canned-food drive for a local food bank at the merchandise booth.
Those donating more than 15 canned or non-perishable goods will receive an event poster, while supplies last.
Camping is permitted next to concertgoers' vehicles as well.
People wishing to camp with friends are urged to make arrangements to meet before arriving at the gate.
Tickets may be bought at Old School Pizza, 14 E. Fourth St., and at Grasshopper Gift Shops, 322 E. College Ave., State College, and 328 Market St., Lewisburg. Advance tickets are $80 and tickets at the gate will be $100. For additional festival information, visit www.abearspicnic.com.
Children 13 and younger are admitted free with a parent or guardian.
To get there from Route 15 in Lewisburg, turn west onto Route 45 towards Mifflinburg. Travel about 17 miles and turn left onto Fairground Road just after passing the Penns Creek Angler on the left. Travel one mile south to Lincoln Park.