Saddleback’s Bluegrass Festival continues all day Saturday

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The crowd continued to grow through Friday afternoon as a string of cars and campers arrived to attend the 2nd Annual Saddleback Mountain Bluegrass Festival.

RANGELEY – Set against a drop dead gorgeous hillside with a bird’s eye view of Rangeley’s lakes, the 2nd Annual Saddleback Mountain Bluegrass Festival hit its first twangy note Friday afternoon.

The start of the two-day event featuring Maine’s considerable stringed talent played from 3 to 8 p.m. as a considerable lineup of cars, campers and RVs  continued to parade through the gate. Teen fiddlers with 317 Maine Street Student Ensemble of Yarmouth and Ellen Gawler’s Pineland Fiddlers from central Maine took to the big stage under a bright red canopy set up in front of the base lodge to play for an audience stretched out before them on blankets and beach chairs.

Colin Gulley of The Toughcats picks one of many good notes on banjo.

Meanwhile, up slope, tents were springing up like dandelions in May. Some campers sat at their tents to listen while most wandered down the green slope with a view that stretched across the lakes to a bluish-purple horizon of mountains and New Hampshire. Grayish clouds hovered then began to clear as The Toughcats finished their rousing set of  unique high energy pizazz that drew hoots and vigorous hand clapping.  Lewiston’s Erica Brown and The Bluegrass Connection brought home the true blue bluegrass and got the growing crowd only hungry for more. The crowd had much more to look forward to tonight with a big bluegrassy jam session scheduled in the lodge’s pub.

Matt Shipman, at left, Ken Taylor on bass and Erica Brown perform at the Saddleback Mountain Bluegrass Festival on Friday evening.

No one will be disappointed tomorrow (77 degrees and sunny) when the music starts at 11 a.m. and will feature nearly a dozen of the top blue grass performers playing today. Headliner Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Mr. Bluegrass himself, will provide the day’s big finish.

Dancing to The Toughcats are Adelie, 6 and Amalie, 8, two members of Hannah Surabian and Ben Frieden's wedding party. The couple from Jeffersonville, Vermont, attended the Saddleback festival last year and decided to get married at this year's festival. They brought 250 guests to celebrate their wedding tomorrow morning.

Standing inside the door to the stage, Nicolaus Bloom, the man who managed to wrangle a very impressive lineup for the festival said his goal “was to provide an eclectic collection of the best bluegrass.” The performers styles vary from contemporary like Crooked Still and Darol Anger’s Republic of Strings to the traditional styles of Michael Cleveland & FlameKeeper and the granddaddy of them all, Ricky Skaggs.

Bloom said organizers also wanted to feature Maine’s considerable talent, especially the up-and-coming teen set. “I wanted to get women involved, too, because it has been male dominated,” Bloom said.

Tents campers pitched are above the stage in front of the base lodge. Saddleback Lake and the mountains beyond can be seen in the distance.

The festival’s manager, Mark Robie said he is pleased with how ticket sales are going. Last year, the first festival drew 2,000 people. This year, Bloom said a target is 3,000. But he added, they’re not looking to create another Woodstock, instead the aim is to keep it an intimate experience for all the bluegrass lovers who attend.

“It’s a stunning setting with an interesting lineup,” Bloom said. “A great destination with an overall great experience. That’s what we’re shooting for.”

View a schedule and information here.

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