Back in 1996, a bear came waltzing through the Historic Public Square in downtown Dahlonega with her two cubs. Everyone on the square dropped their responsibilities to come and see. The cooks at Crimson Moon dropped their spoons from making a boiling pot of soup. The massage therapists left their patients on the tables. All to come and see this family of bears. One of the cubs climbed up the now-famous tree in front of Brad Walker's pottery studio, and we eventually had people come out and move the three bears to safety away from the town. This was the biggest ordeal Dahlonega had seen in a while!
For weeks this was the talk of Dahlonega -- about the bears coming to the square. A group of merchants and I got together a few weeks after and started what many know now as "Bear on the Square". The story of the bears stuck with this town, and so the name stuck. We started this festival in honor of the Appalachian music, arts, culture, and to remember the bears that came through the square that day in 1996.
I love and cherish the music that Dahlonega's people hold so closely to their hearts and this festival made that love come to life.
Bear on the Square is celebrating its 20th reunion this coming up weekend. We will have silent and live auctions on Friday evening, April 15th. These auctions make the festival possible and provide us with the funds to make it all run smoothly, to appreciate and preserve Appalachian music, and to just enjoy the town of Dahlonega.
On Saturday and Sunday highlights include traditional mountain crafts and artist demonstrations, an acoustic mic event and dance team demonstrations on Saturday and master classes on Sunday. Throughout the weekend pop-up music jams on the square and down the side streets and the main stage is dominated by every variety of bluegrass and old time music you can imagine, including some national award-winning groups like Bluebilly Grit, which won the 2012 Telluride Bluegrass Festival competition and our own John Grimm & Beverly Smith and local favorite Ugly Cousin.
On Sunday, the 17th, we will have our famous Gospel Jam, where every type of person comes and enjoys some pickin' and grinnin'. It's one of the best parts about the festival and makes every person that comes to Bear on the Square feel right at home.
Starting Friday and throughout the weekend, we have art booths, music, and food both on the square and in vendor booths. Come and enjoy Dahlonega's music, its famous artists, and our cherished Appalachian culture!
And be on the lookout for that bear!
Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber & Visitors Bureau | 13 South Park Street | Dahlonega, GA 30533 | (706) 864-3711 or (800) 231-5543.