Come join us in Downtown Dahlonega for the 20th annual celebration of Southern Appalachian music, art and folklore at Bear on the Square Mountain Festival on April 16-17. This lively festival, spawned from the local legend of a bear cub that took refuge in the sycamore tree in front of Brad Walker’s Pottery, is a favorite for visitors and locals alike. There is no other festival quite like Bear on the Square, and we hope these 20 reasons to attend will show you why.
1. Attend Free Workshops
Looking to expand your musical skills? Bear on the Square features 15 FREE workshops for you to hone your skills. Stop in for a harmony singing workshop or learn how to play some old-time fiddle tunes. View the full schedule of workshops.
2. Meet the Bear
Keep an eye out for the friendly bear on the square while walking around and get a free bear hug!
3. Enjoy the Art of Storytelling
The Southern Appalachian oral art of storytelling will have significant presence at the 20th annual Bear on the Square Mountain Festival. Storytelling was an important mode of both communication and entertainment in the Southern Appalachian region, and Bear on the Square wants to do its part in helping carry on this cherished tradition. Stories, filled with tall tales, moral lessons, riddles and history, served to entertain, educate, and build community for early Appalachian settlers. View the full schedule.
4. Find Unique Items at the Artist Market!
Held around the Historic Public Square in Dahlonega, the Artist Marketplace continues its tradition of presenting the juried work from an impressive group of top quality regional artists. Open on Saturday and Sunday of the festival, rain or shine, the market has booths containing the work of Marketplace artists and some other special displays.
5. Purchase Your Next Instrument
For all of you pickers out there, make your way down Luthiers’ Row on Main Street. There you will find beautiful, handmade instruments constructed by exceptional crafters.
6. Share Your Talents at Open Mic
Want to share your talents in front of the Bear audience? Sign up to participate in the Bear on the Square Open Mic Session held on Saturday, April 16 at 1:30pm. Click here for more information.
7. Watch Folk Dance Exhibitions
Gather around for captivating dance exhibitions from dance teams with the John C. Campbell Folk School. Dance teams performing at the 20th annual festival will be the Brasstown Morris Dancers with their fabulous band and the Kudzu Kickers clogging team from Murphy, NC.
8. Try the Old-Time Mountain Dance
Kick up your heels to the old-time mountain sound of dance music provided by the Beary Good String Band with expert caller John Kelley. All are welcome to gather around on the Visitors Center Plaza Saturday at 6:30pm.
9. Head to the Theatre for Goldilocks and the Three Bears on the Square
Dahlonega's Historic Holly Theatre will be presenting the play, "Goldilocks and the Three Bears on the Square," which was written and produced for the 1st Annual Bear on the Square Mountain Festival in 1997. The performances will be at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. There is no charge of admission, but donations to the Holly's Children's Theatre program will be accepted.
10. Experience Music at the Moon
An added bonus of Bear on the Square weekend in Dahlonega is the incredible talents you can see perform at the renowned Crimson Moon Café. Friday night you can purchase tickets for BlueBilly Grit, a Telluride Winning Bluegrass/Americana band. If you enjoy traditional and classic country music, you won’t want to miss the performance by John Lilly with Beverly Smith & John Grimm Saturday night. Purchase your tickets online.
11. Discover Dahlonega’s Rich History
Local heritage attractions and festivities present local pride and traditions along with visitor appeal and educational resources. Native American, gold mining, military, family history, and even remarkably spooky tales provide the wealth of fun for taking in local heritage.
12. Bring Your Instrument & Enjoy Impromptu Jams
Musicians start gathering Friday afternoon—acoustic jams are everywhere on the city square. Bring a chair, find someone playing your favorite music and join in. Bring your guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, bass, lap dulcimer, hammered dulcimer, autoharp, mouth harp, or jews harp and join in on old fiddle tunes, country and bluegrass jams.
13. Take Advantage of Bear's Instrument Sitting
Your instrument is like a baby to you, and this is why we understand the reluctance to let it leave your sight. Fear no longer! Bear on the Square will offer “instrument sitting” this year so that you can enjoy yourself without carrying around your instrument all day. Just like a coat check at the fancy clubs, we will give a token and you can reclaim your case when you return.
14. Grab a bite to eat!
While in Dahlonega, you will not want to miss the opportunity to dine in our many downtown restaurants. Some of our visitors come to Dahlonega for the dining alone! No matter your craving, you are sure to fine the perfect meal at one of our local spots.
15. Relive Some of Bear’s Most Memorable Musical Acts
In celebration of 20 years of jamming, Bear on the Square has lined up some its most memorable musicians from the past. The 2016 lineup of MainStage performers include names very familiar to Bear Festival goers: BlueBilly Grit, The Georgia Crackers, John Lilly, Threadbare Skivvies, Locust Honey The Howlin’ Brothers, Crooker Mile, and Ugly Cousin. Check out the full line up here.
16. Dine, Wine, and Bid! (Friday Auction)
The primary fundraiser for the annual festival, this is one of the Dahlonega area's most anticipated occasions, as enthusiastic participants crowd into the MainStage Tent to enter bids on auction items, which have included the work of North Georgia folk artist Billy Roper, work from other local and juried artists taking part in the Bear Festival's Artists Marketplace, and items contributed by businesses, organizations and artists and other individuals from this area. View the auction catalog.
17. Shop Downtown at Over 65 Boutique Stores!
There is no place better to experience true Southern hospitality than in the businesses owned and operated by our local residents. From traditional Appalachian art and locally made gifts to trendy clothing shops and regional wine, Downtown Dahlonega offers the widest array of shopping within its 65 retail stores.
18. Bring the Entire Family
Bear on the Square is for people of all ages! There are even activities geared specifically towards children, including Home Depot’s kids’ workshop, face painting and balloons at Hancock Park, Gold Panning on East Main Street, the Holly Theatre’s performance of Goldilocks and the 3, Story Express Bookmobile next to Hancock Park (Saturday only), Pick & Bow jam tent on the square, and lots of demos around the festival that kids enjoy—blacksmithing, soap making, and spinners.
19. Start Your Sunday with a Gospel Jam
The Annual Sunday Morning Gospel Jam is an event not to be missed. One of Bear’s most popular events will feature gospel songs from many Main Stage performers, as well as other regional and local musicians. There is truly no better way to start your Sunday.
20. Venture Out
Discover what makes this entire area – Dahlonega and Lumpkin County – fabulous. The great natural beauty, especially this time of year; our local wineries (there are five within about 10 minutes’ drive of the Historic Public Square; and awe-inspiring rushing creeks, streams and waterfalls . It’s hard to get lost -- all roads lead back to Dahlonega and Bear on the Square.
Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber & Visitors Bureau | 13 South Park Street | Dahlonega, GA 30533 | (706) 864-3711 or (800) 231-5543.