The Dorrigo folk who originally created the Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival and continue to work tirelessly to produce this festival annually, have shared their story. This is a true labour of love and the end result is a successful festival which has become an integral part of Dorrigo’s landscape, an ever evolving weekend of music and so much more. This year’s program has been described by Festival organisers as “the best yet”, with Fog Horn String Band (above) just one of the acclaimed headline acts.
Sixteen years ago the Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival came into being. Jack Sommers and his musical family had recently moved to the Plateau. This bluegrass playing seventeen year old saw an opening to create a similar festival to those he and his family band had been frequenting- a festival where music is the main focus and provides the opportunity to bring together like minded people who share that love. The Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival was created. Not only has it been sustained, but has grown into one of the main festivals on the Australian Bluegrass and Old-time calendar and has international recognition. And the seven Summers kids and their parents have all been involved since inception. “We still use the banners Betsy made for the first Festival,” says mum Bridget.
Over the years many people have contributed to the annual success of the festival. Sadly, a few have passed away, but through thick and thin a changing, dedicated group of volunteers come together each year. The current committee is comprised of Angela Sommers Rees (Social Media guru), Peter Clark is Festival Co-ordinator, Caroline Brauhart is Treasurer, Cheryl Turner manages stalls and the website and the Sommers family led by Bridget spend most of their time running the show.
The first festival had six performing bands. We now have fifty plus and a full weekend program extending out into the community. As well as the festival, the committee also organizes music gigs throughout the year as a way of continuing the momentum. These are often with performers who have been to the festival or overseas touring artists who have heard of the festival and appreciate a smaller gig and a restful stopover in between their main performances. With the assistance of Dave, one of our festival sound guys, they are intimate gigs and something to look out for if you have not been along.
Starting something new in a small community is never that easy, but over the years we have had some amazing collaborations with schools, the museum, hospital and youth groups. We have been involved with some inspiring projects involving local and out of town artists and performers. It is always a pleasure to take a little bit of the festival out into the local schools where over the years dances, concerts and workshops have taken place.
The festival was always going to be held at the picturesque Dorrigo showgrounds where there is ample room for the many campers who travel from across Australia to attend. As the festival has grown over the years we have had to add new venues for concerts and workshops. But the festival still maintains that old fashioned feeling of being in a different time, away from the hustle and bustle of the busy world.
Impeccable sound has always been top on the agenda and we are very lucky to have some very capable guys who travel long distances to work throughout the weekend making sure that what you hear is just like having someone perform in your own living room. Our performers come from across Australia and overseas and we like to think we have some of the very best artists in their specific genres to share their music with you. A family friendly event, with something for all, but always at the heart of everything is the music.
2017 sees the inaugural Dorrigo Old Time Music School taking place on the three days prior to the festival. With tutors mainly from the U.S we are excited that participants will get the opportunity to learn and extend their skills firsthand from dedicated artists.
Whether it’s a dance, an intimate performance or main concert, an impromptu jam session, workshops galore, an in depth presentation, a poet’s breakfast, a bluegrass breakfast, a circus troupe, an early morning café performance, joining in with the festival choir, sitting with your kids listening to a tale from long ago, catching up with friends, volunteering…. There is something that brings an increasing number of patrons back year after year.
Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival Tickets can be purchased online here. The ticket office at the Festival opens on the Friday 27th October and tickets are available throughout the weekend.