Bring your blankets and lawn chairs to the Hot Springs Resort and Spa on Saturday, June 15, and settle in for a day of music and celebration at the Madison County Arts Council’s (MCAC’s) 24th Annual Bluff Mountain Festival in Hot Springs. The festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and features bluegrass and old-time music, a silent auction of regional items, an artist market and home-cooked food. Huge magnolias near the stage by Spring Creek offer a shady, park-like setting from which to enjoy the performances.
“This event has become a mainstay for many performers, artists and attendees,” says festival director Brandon Johnson. “Its reputation pulls nationally touring artists, Grammy winners, music legends and aspiring talent, all of whom perform for free.”
The festival began in 1995 in order to unify the community in support of efforts to preserve Bluff Mountain. Twenty years later, many of the festival founders gathered with a new generation of those resisting proposed logging in the area. The event is now a fundraiser for the Madison County Arts Council.
“The 2019 festival celebrates past preservation efforts as well as a renewed vision of community involvement and public resolve,” says MCAC executive director Laura Boosinger.
This year’s lineup features many artists who helped the festival flourish over the past two decades. Performers include ballad singer Betty Smith, master fiddler Roger Howell, The Green Grass Cloggers, ballad singer and songwriter Joe Penland, The Stoney Creek Boys, The Midnight Plowboys and the Madison County Ballad Singers. Up-and-coming string band The Burnett Sisters, from Watauga County, will make their festival debut.
“We’re excited to be part of the effort to generate support for the preservation of Bluff Mountain by performing at this festival,” say the sisters.
Ranging from ages 12 to 22, The Burnett Sisters Band consists of five members who create a unique blend of music in the folk, old-time and bluegrass traditions. Establishing themselves as a gospel quartet, the sisters began singing and playing together at local venues and churches in their early youth with the inspiration of other family bands. Currently performing professionally as a five-piece string band at events and festivals across the United States, The Burnett Sisters are known for their engaging personalities and haunting vocal harmony.
“The festival represents the best of traditional music and art from the communities of WNC,” says Johnson. “Each year we seek to feature talent that ranges from pre-teens to octogenarians, and it all happens in a spot rich in the history and traditions that we seek to honor.”
Admission to the Bluff Mountain Festival is free. Most artists will donate a piece of their work to the silent auction. Food vendors from local nonprofits will sell a variety of items including burgers, barbecue and baked goods.