Festival has more than music in store

Bluegrass music lovers won't have to go far to hear great music this weekend.


The highly acclaimed Aiken Bluegrass Festival is returning to Highfields Showgrounds near downtown Aiken on Friday and Saturday.

The festival includes entertainment for the entire family. The event will kick off at 6 p.m. Friday with dinner, a full open bar and music from three bands. On Saturday, gates open at 11 a.m., with music beginning at 11:30 a.m. and continuing into the night.

Building on the success of its first five years, the festival is expected to draw more than 3,500 people for music, camping, family fun, food, refreshments, arts and crafts and more, according to a release.

Because of the festival's lineup of musicians, Blue Ridge Outdoors named it to its list of Top 50 Festivals in the Southeast. Among the headliners coming to Aiken are Larry Keel, Hackensaw Boys, Town Mountain, Big Daddy's Bluegrass Band, Dehlia Low, Mountain Standard Time and more.

The festival offers vendors with an eclectic mix of homemade goods, food, drinks and frozen treats.

A children's area will feature an assortment of original hands-on activities and take-home crafts centered on an Appalachian musical theme. Children's activities are free. The grounds also offer an area for camping and hookups for RVs.

On Saturday morning, the festival will feature a family bicycle "Joy Ride" starting at 11 a.m. from the Hotel Aiken to Highfields. Everyone is encouraged to take part, wear costumes and decorate their bikes. The distance is short enough to be suitable for children.

A raffle will give away a Beach Cruiser bicycle, a model usually available exclusively to New Belgium Brewing Co. employees.

Festival proceeds will benefit STAR Riding, which enriches the lives of children and adults with mental and physical disabilities through safe therapeutic interaction with horses. STAR maintains a year-round program based at Hopeland Farms in Aiken, with the help of Kathy and Tommy Coward. The festival is the major financial supporter of STAR.

aiken bluegrass festival

WHERE: The Highfields at Richland Avenue (U.S. Highway 78) and Beaufort Street

PRE-FESTIVAL: Barbecue dinner and concert begins 6 p.m. Friday; $50 advance, $60 at gate, $15 for 12 and younger; featuring bands Town Mountain, Dehlia Low and Larry Keel and Natural Bridge

FULL FESTIVAL: Begins 11:30 a.m. Saturday; $15 advance, $20 at gate, free 12 and younger with adult; same above plus Doug and the Henrys, Taylor Creek, Kenny George Band, Big Daddy's Bluegrass Band, Hackensaw Boys and Mountain Standard Time

TICKETS: Aiken Brewing Co., New Moon Café, Red Pepper Cafe, Hotel Aiken and Rock Bottom Music in Aiken; Mellow Mushroom in Augusta; Boots Bridles and Britches in Aiken and Grovetown, Ga.

MORE: (803) 642-8966, aikenbluegrassfestival.org