Greyfox Bluegrass Festival – Being on the Hill

Greyfox Bluegrass Festival – Being on the Hill
Year after year camping tickets sell out on the hill of the Rothvoss Farm in Ancramdale, NY. That’s 4,000 tickets and still the overflow of people are directed to the lower camping area or turned away. What does “Being on The Hill” mean?

Greyfox is so much more than a music festival. It’s a community of people who are drawn together by the experience, weather be damned. Now think about this, 4,000 camping tickets to spend 4 days in a large hay field of a working farm with no running water, no electric hookups, no flush toilet facilities and setting up camp on an angle in close proximity to a bunch of other people known and unknown.

I did not camp on site my 1st experience with Greyfox, although I spent two full days enjoying the music. I had no conception of what it meant to stay “on the hill.” Year two, I had to know; now, I would have it no other way. Staying on the hill means learning to live with the weather which can range from 100 degrees of burning sun to 60 degrees of pelting rains. It means learning to live with the dust or the slick mud. It means learning how to prepare meals with no conveniences. It can mean sleeping in an angled heap while trying to shut out the undertone of the all niters. BUT, somehow, the magic of Greyfox makes all of that an allure not only to me but also to 3,999 other Greyfoxers.

Sunset View from a campsite - Photo by Al Eklund

Now, that view may sound negative but believe me it isn’t at all negative. It IS an absolute wonderful experience because of the friendships forged and the neighborhood camaraderie that is quickly established on Wednesday as everyone sets up camp and helping hands jump in to help their neighbors. You come prepared for whatever the weather throws at you. You come prepared for your meals or you choose to eat at vendor row. An in reality, the all niters are a sweet serenade of traditional and standard folk tunes by talents that, more often than not, rival the virtuosity of the on-stage musicians. Being sleep deprived is part of the mystique as you wander around the hill in the late nite reverie. You don’t come to Greyfox to sleep.

Friendships on the hill form in unusual ways and are sustained year after year. I wonder if it is it because everyone’s every day defenses are lowered by the shared experience. Most friendships are on a first name only basis. It’s totally unimportant what people do for a living or how much money they have. Everyone on the hill is on equal footing. Last year, we forged a friendship with the “gatekeeper” at the main stage. As we entered the stage area the first evening this year, he was there to great us with a big smile and hugs as we each recognized the face of an “old” friend. I don’t even know his name but I was happy to see him. Faces all around you are familiar and it’s good to see them even if you have never had a conversation with them.

I watch faces and often they are full of joy; the gleeful child, the twirling dancers, the pensive woman, the free spirited hippies, the hard core traditionalist, ect. All are part of the community known as Greyfox. Sunday is bitter sweet as hugs and goodbyes are said with promises to meet again next year on the hill. The shared experience is recounted time and time again; on line and off line. Another year past; another memory created to bring a smile across my face whenever I recall my weekend on “The Hill”.

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You Should Also Read:
Reflections on Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival 2005
Grey Fox 2006 – 30 years
Lagniappe Productions –Chuck Wentworth

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