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Time for bluegrass

Four-day festival coming to town

— A weekend of field pickin' tunes in a four-day camper town approaches as the Upper Hudson Bluegrass Festival returns to the Ski Bowl Park for its eighth year from Aug. 18-21.

Among the performers is David Nichols and Spare Change, from Whippleville, outside Malone.

“We’re regionally known and marginally famous,” said Nichols.

Nichols runs a guitar inlay shop that's embellished and built guitars for the likes of B.B. King, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard.

A bluegrass festival is basically a giant campout, said Nichols. Attendees like to sit near their camper and play music while listening to the stage. Having someone to play with at your campsite is as big a draw as the stage performers, said Nichols.

The bluegrass festival season runs from April to October. It’s special, said Nichols, it’s the way performers like him live their summers. He runs his shop Monday through Wednesday, then heads out for festivals, playing from Maine to Pennsylvania.

His band will donate a Bristol Blue Ridge guitar to be raffled off at the event, a custom for them when playing festivals.

It’s a small festival, but we all know each other, said Nichols, “it’s like a family reunion.”

When Nichols stops into the North Creek festival, “I know where I’ll park, I know who’ll park behind me.”

It’s like a community, he said, you know where you live, you know who your neighbors are, and you’re friendly with most everybody. He added that he avoids people who want to talk his ear off.

He said much like other performers, his band will wander around the campers and play songs, have a sandwich with the owners, move to another camper, or split up to mingle. Rusty Leigh, who's helped organize the event since it began, called this practice field picking.

The festival wasn't very big the first year, “as a matter of fact it was quite small,” with nine bands playing for three days.

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