Green Mountain Bluegrass and Roots Festival 'like coming home'

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MANCHESTER, Vt. — When Sierra Hull hears the word "bluegrass," images of a warm, sultry day in her home state of Tennessee come to mind. Good thing, though, for the up-and-coming vocalist, guitarist and mandolin player that image — and the music that inspires it — can transcend state lines with a country-wide following.

From Thursday, Aug. 16 to Sunday, Aug. 19, Hull and 20 other bluegrass acts will join forces in Manchester, Vt., for the inaugural Green Mountain Bluegrass and Roots Festival, an outdoor cornucopia of the genre. The event will be held at Hunter Park, which encompasses both performing space, as well as camping and parking.

"These outdoors events, bringing together so much talent from the bluegrass community, capture the feel of what the music is all about," Hull said. "Coming together like this over four days with the fans, who are coming and going or camping out, is like coming home to family. Bluegrass has that effect. Our artists are very down-to-earth. I've seen the lineup and am thrilled to be a part of it."

That lineup includes both stars and newbies: Peter Rowan, Mandolin Orange, Donna the Buffalo, Bobby Britt, Goodbye Girls, Upstate Rubdown, Mipso, Eli West and others.

The festival is also tied to community spirit. It's the brainchild of Jill Turpin and her husband, John, realtors from New Jersey and amateur bluegrass musicians themselves.

Jill Turpin said the family has owned a home in nearby Landgrove, Vt., for several years and she calls it their "spiritual home."

"Vermont is where we feel we truly belong," Turpin said. "We've been in the bluegrass scene ourselves for awhile and have personally come to know many of the artists in the genre on tour. Bluegrass is really like one big family."

And the family feel is exactly what the Turpins wanted to bring to their home away from home. After kicking around some ideas of how to do this in Manchester, they resolved to bring their extended bluegrass family to their home for a visit, and the inaugural Green Mountain Bluegrass and Roots Festival took shape. This weekend, it will be a reality.

An entire section of Hunter Park will be dedicated to the festival, which due to space restrictions will be limited to around 2,000 participants on any given day. There will also be vendors on the grounds.

"So, whether you are coming with a camper, a tent, or staying in a local hotel, it's important to get your tickets sooner rather than later, because bluegrass fans love flocking to these intimate outdoor festivals," Turpin said. "We're also very pleased to be able to offer artisan and food vendors."

Volunteers, Turpin added, are the heart and soul of these events — about 100 will be needed to make the weekend run smoothly.

"Many volunteers at bluegrass festivals are huge fans themselves, so while working, they get to enjoy the acts, too," Turpin said.

Such gratification is commonplace, according to Jacob Sharp, vocalist and mandolin player of the well-regarded band Mipso, which is part of the lineup. He explained that having the Turpins as promoters and organizers was one of the attractions for Mipso, as well as other acts, to sign on.

"We met the Turpins when we were touring in New Jersey, and they aren't just fans but musicians, too," Sharp said. "As promoters, they have a very good sense of what makes bluegrass such a close community, because they perform themselves. Judging by the lineup, this is an excellent collection of talent across the industry, many who we know well."

Asked what the festival might bring for attending fans, Sharp didn't hesitate.

"The outdoor events, especially the intimate ones where we get to spend time with the other [acts], and the fans are mingling and talking to us, are really the best," Sharp said. "We're on the road for 150 dates each year, and so bluegrass becomes family. [The fans] can feel our genuine love for what we do, and in turn they send it right back, making festivals like this one very special."




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