bearonthesquare_logo_smallWhat started out as a great excuse for a party back in the mid ‘90s has grown into one of North Georgia’s premier spring events.

The idea for the annual Bear on the Square Mountain Festival originated in 1996 when a baby bear was discovered up a sycamore tree on the Historic Public Square in Dahlonega. The bear cub was rescued and returned to the wild, but in the meantime, Dahlonegans had found a fine excuse for a party. The initial “party” was in 1997, and this year’s festival is the 13th.

Over the years, the annual Bear on the Square Mountain Festival has developed into an incredible weekend of music and art around the picturesque Public Square in Dahlonega, located at the end of Georgia 400 in the foothills of the North Georgia mountains.

From Friday through Sunday, April 17-19, old-time and bluegrass music will fill the downtown square and Hancock Park. Around midday on Friday, musicians will begin conducting jams around the Historic Public Square. On-stage performances are set on Saturday and Sunday at the MainStage Tent in Hancock Park with local, regional, and national musicians. Headline acts this year include the Claire Lynch Band, The Freight Hoppers, the duo of Beverly Smith and Carl Jones, The Dappled Grays, Curtis Jones and Friends, and The Packway Handle Band.

The juried Mountain Marketplace around the square on Saturday and Sunday will include traditional crafts with artists displaying their work as well as artists from Marketplace sponsor John C. Campbell Folk School demonstrating such crafts as blacksmithing and basketry. On Saturday only, dance teams from the Campbell school will perform at the plaza in front of the Visitors’ Center.

unknown-1Music workshops, a Gospel Jam, an old-time mountain dance, a Live Country Auction, a folk artists’ collective panel discussion, and kids activities complete the festival offerings. Complete information about the festival, including times of performances and workshops, information and photographs of the MainStage Tent performers, and the listing of major sponsors, can be found online at

Bear on the Square Mountain Festival, Inc., which stages the festival, is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit cultural arts organization whose mission is to preserve and celebrate the culture of the Southern Appalachians through the presentation of music, traditional craft, and folkways.

Jimmy Booth

Jimmy Booth

Lifelong Georgia resident Jimmy Booth, who was a longtime Atlanta area journalist and public relations consultant, moved in fall of 2006 from Peachtree City, Ga., to Dahlonega, Ga. He and his wife Margo have become involved with several Dahlonega-based not-for-profit cultural arts and historical organizations working to keep alive the traditional mountain music, art and folkways which are a vital part of the area's heritage. Jimmy graduated from Emory University, where he served as editor of The Emory Wheel. During his journalistic career, he worked as publisher or editor of several Georgia weekly and small daily newspapers, and he was a section editor for The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. Now officially retired, he handles publicity for some of the events and organizations in the Dahlonega area.

  1. Wonderful! And your headline calls to mind a tender refrain from the Steve Fromholz’ song “Bears”: “So meet a bear and take him on out to lunch today …” Thank you.

  2. To see musicians greet each other on the street, open their instrument cases and begin jamming is a joyful old-timey wonder to behold. Thanks, Jimmy… this is my favorite festival up here in the mountain provinces north of the city.

  3. Great article, informative without being too lengthy. The web link was excellent as well, makes you want to dance.

  4. My favorite festival! So much music being shared, among the blooming dogwoods of spring. The North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association will have a booth right next to the multi-talented folk artist Billy Roper – after all, what’s a mountain music festival without dulcimers?!?

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