Travels with MaryE

Most things I love best are about good light and good timing. That's where the adventures start. Don't be in no hurry here. Here you'll find a little bit about bluegrass music, fox hunting, life on the road, time on the mountain, and a whole lot about other things, too.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Winding Down the Summer, Pickin' in the Pasture and Thomas Point Beach



As the end of August draws near I find myself looking forward to the last days of summer with the advent of fall just around the bend. A few of my very favorite gatherings of bluegrass folks happen at this time every year and this season promises to be especially memorable. I am definitely in the mood for lobster - fresh off the boat - and plenty of it!
Though it doesn't look like I'll have a chance to go this year, one of the brightest spots on my festival season is always Pickin' in the Pasture ("PIP"), held on a working sheep farm in Lodi, NY.
The Alexanders make everyone welcome, and there's such a down-home feel, maybe because the stage is literally their back porch! Performers and staff are fed in the Alexanders' kitchen, and their living room is the "green room" where everyone tunes and works out their set list.

Walk around the relatively flat grounds, especially following the conclusion of the stage show each night, and you're bound to find some excellent, traditional bluegrass jam sessions and meet a bunch of friendly people. A couple years back some enterprising Amish folks set up a wonderful stand just spilling over with luscious vegetables and artery-clogging home-baked goods (I suppose if you eat both offerings you'll be okay). Last year the Amish were having a barn-building or school-building and had to forego the produce stand. But that was a high point of the festival the year they were there. Even if they're not set up,if you stand by the little road that brings you to the festival it won't be long till you'll see an Amish buggy or two going about their business in this rich agrarian area. Lodi is located in the Finger Lakes region of New York state, not far from Ithaca, and very close to Seneca Lake. Check it out!

The lineup at PIP is always superb, that is, if you like your bluegrass on the traditional end of the spectrum (and you know I do). It's going to be hard to give PIP a miss this year, but I have a good excuse...I'm headed to the 30th-- and final -- Thomas Point Beach bluegrass festival near Brunswick, Maine.
If you go to many festivals you probably have a favorite and I have to say that, all things considered, Thomas Point Beach is mine. So it's with a partially heavy heart that I head out there later this week to make some memories with friends, eat as much lobster as I can choke down (and that's a lot), maybe get to sail out to Cundy's Harbor for a lobster roll, pick a whole bunch with all my pals, and hear a whole lot of great music there by the white sandy beach of Thomas Point. Some of the featured performers are the Old Time Bluegrass Singers, White Mountain Bluegrass, Country Ham, the Tennessee Mafia Jugband (featuring Leroy Troy, one of my faves), Rhonda Vincent, the Gibson Brothers, Claire Lynch, Doyle Lawson, Marty Stuart, Ricky Skaggs, the Del McCoury Band, and the Grascals.

Perhaps you've heard me go on at length about how I love this festival and that festival and I mean every word I say. It's just that when I write down all the factors that make a festival GREAT, Thomas Point Beach always rises to the top. One big factor is that it is a full-service campground with all the things you'd expect at a top-notch campground. There's plenty of shade (not in the concert area, but a "Maine" tent is provided for those who want/need shade - it's located fairly far back from the stage) in the camping areas, lots of activities - and a great sandy beach for the kids (and the not-so-kids, too); lots and lots of jamming (this is the best jamming festival I've ever attended anywhere) - day and night -- and a very good lineup on stage.

One really wonderful thing Pati and her staff have got figured out is that you don't need 8 trillion bands onstage every day from 9 am until 3 am resulting in

tired festival-goers, being too tired to stay up to jam, and a grouchy sound crew. No, about 12 hours of music are offered per day - roughly from 10 or 11am until 10 or 11 pm. Plenty!

A delightful setting for a great event...this is the view from the door of my tent!

After the stage show stops some of the hired bands come out and jam with the folks - yep, bring along your instrument and play along if you like. Many folks do! Or you can just stand around, listen and grin. Suit yourself.

A bunch of my friends never even go to the stage. It's an annual friends' reunion, out there on the point not far from the beach. We start rolling in nearly a week before the festival even starts. It's fun to watch the campsite build from nothing to what feels like a big, friendly town. I don't camp in the middle of everyone, but prefer a quieter, shadier place out under the trees on the edge of the water. I'm still just a short walk from all the hubbub, but I need my quiet times.

(Not to be missed - the kids put their hearts into their main stage set every year.)

So most of the girls (women) in my gang sort of hang around and laugh and cook things and just have a good time while most of the guys scratch their um bellies and pick day and night. Pretty good stuff. Some of the young kids get interested in the music and sidle up and listen and pretty soon they're handed an instrument and given some instruction. This is where the passion begins to burn!

Well, most of you have been to bluegrass festivals before so I'm not telling you anything new. But if you've never been to a festival - or you want to attend the one that I rank #1 in the country, get yourself up to Thomas Point Beach in Brunswick, Maine for their very last hurrah this August 28-31 and tell 'em MaryE sent ya. You won't regret it - I promise.
See you at Thomas Point Beach (and hope you make it to Pickin' in the Pasture, too!)

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