For the past twenty years, Dahlonega's annual "Bear on the Square" Mountain Music Festival has continued to attract more featured events and visitors every year. As the town prepares to celebrate its 21st Bear on the Square weekend, here's the story behind its origins.
In April of 1996, a black bear cub which had gotten separated from its mother had managed to find its way into downtown Dahlonega. Confused and afraid, the cub did what bears tend to do in situations like this, it climbed a tree.
Naturally, the bear became an instant sensation as onlookers gathered around the north side of the Public Square to get a view of the wayward cub. As deputies kept people at a distance for both the safety of the bear and humans alike, the DNR was notified of the situation.
After unsuccessfully trying to get the cub to climb down on its own, a tranquilizer gun was used to get the bear out of the sycamore tree. Once on the ground, the bear, was placed in a cage and taken by the DNR to the Chattahoochee National Forest where it was released.
Most people would have thought that the story would have ended there. Nothing more than a brief headline in the Dahlonega Nugget. However, the incident took on a new aspect, when a year later, a committee was organized to create a annual festival to commemorate the visit of the black bear cub to the Public Square.
The stated purpose of the first festival was to celebrate traditional Appalachian music and crafts but to also celebrate the natural world of the mountains with information on bears.
The first "Bear on the Square" festival took place on April 19th and 20th, 1997. The two day event was dedicated to the memory of Dr. Gene Wiggins, a long time Dahlonega resident who was a scholar of traditional music who had recently passed away on February 2nd.
Staying true to its roots, "Bear on the Square," has become Dahlonega's signature Springtime festival. Whether you enjoy listening to good old fashioned Appalachian music, or just like taking in the unique atmosphere of what the festival has to offer, "Bear on the Square" is definitely an event for the whole family to enjoy.
Normally held on the third weekend in April, this year's "Bear on the Square has been moved to the Fourth Weekend (April 22nd and 23rd,) because of Easter.
When visiting Dahlonega, remember to keep an eye out for the sycamore tree in front of the historic Sargent Building. Hidden among the branches, you might just catch a glimpse of small black bear about half way up the tree. The permanent marker to the cub who accidentally wandered into town and started a festival.
Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber & Visitors Bureau | 13 South Park Street | Dahlonega, GA 30533 | (706) 864-3711 or (800) 231-5543.