Bear on the Square returns to downtown this weekend

At the same time that our Atlanta counterparts are besieged by traffic jams, the downtown streets of Dahlonega will play host to a much more pleasing kind of jam as the 21st annual Bear on the Square festival kicks off.

What began with a stray bear cub on the Public Square has become the region's most popular weekend for musicians and music lovers.

The weekend is scheduled to feature such popular musical acts as The Howlin' Brothers, Ugly Cousin, Threadbare Skivvies, and jam band icon Rev. Jeff Mosier, plus music workshops, jams, demos and storytelling.

The mountain festival begins with its popular auction/dinner night at 5 p.m. 

Friday and continuing with music, art, storytelling and workshops throughout the downtown Saturday and Sunday, April 22-23. 

The 21st annual edition of the festival will be staged rain or shine in and around the historic public square, and all activities are free. 

Artists’ Marketplace hours are 10-6 Saturday and 10-5 Sunday. 

An introductory storytelling session will kick off the MainStage program at 10:30 a.m., and music will follow 11 a.m. to  9:30 p.m. Saturday (with a break from 6:30-7:30 p.m.), and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

A two-day workshop schedule runs 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. 

Other special events include John C. Campell folk dancers appearing on the Visitors Center plaza at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday and a Mountain Dance for festival goers at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, also on the plaza.

Complete information about the festival, including schedules of activities, information about performers and artists, a listing of sponsors, and much more can be found at

Below is a summary of what festival goers will find on the square this weekend.



A highlight of the festival is the annual Friday night live and silent auction and dinner which starts at 5 p.m. in the MainStage tent across from Hancock Park. Up for auction this year are paintings—including several by nationally known folk artist Billy Roper and other regional folk artists, pottery, services, gift baskets, purses, music lessons, a Cigar Box Mandolin, and much more, all donated by local and exhibiting festival artists and local businesses. The event is a major source of funding for the festival which offers two days of free activities to the public. An auction admission charge of $5 covers food, wine, an auction paddle and bluegrass music from Curtis Jones and Matt Mundy.



Hand-crafted is the key word in describing the festival's juried Marketplace of Appalachian crafts. Ninety artists, some of whom will be demonstrating their craft, will display fabric and yarn arts, folk art, furniture and woodworking, glass and metal, jewelry, photography, drawing and painting, pottery, kitchen and gourmet wares, bath and body items, woodworking, instrument-making, and other categories of art and crafts.



Twelve bluegrass and old time bands and two professional jams will fill the festival's MainStage tent, across from Hancock Park, for two full days of free concerts by regional and national musicians. Music is a main focus of the festival which celebrates the culture of the Southern Appalachians.



Local and regional storytellers will present 30-minute sessions on the Zak McConnell Stage in Hancock Park throughout the day Saturday and Sunday, and will hold a workshop Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. in Uncle Woodrow’s Tent on East Main Street. The Southern Appalachian oral art of storytelling has become a growing presence at the festival during recent years.



A two-day program of free workshops is designed both for the musician and the general public. Hands-on workshops and jams with designated leaders are offered as well as informational presentations. Drop in at one of the festival’s two workshop tents to learn to sing in harmony, play a penny whistle, yodel, join a ukulele jam and much more. 



It’s an old-fashioned gospel jam with three part harmony, fiddles and banjos, and a highly energized crowd. It’s clearly the most popular event of the Bear on the Square weekend, with a standing-room-only MainStage tent year after year. Singers and pickers from the pool of talented musicians who gather on the square throughout the two-day festival take the stage in small groups to present a favorite gospel tune, backed by a festival house band. Led by Glenda Pender, festival president, and opening with bagpiper Sam Johnson’s rendition of Amazing Grace, the Gospel Jam starts at 11 a.m. Sunday morning in the big tent across from Hancock Park. 



Jam band icon Rev. Jeff Mosier will lead a free Moonlight Jam at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the MainStage tent. Open to jammers and listeners, all are invited to come by for lively bluegrass music and beer at this new Bear event.



An Open Mic session hosted by local musician Erick Jones will run from 3:30-6 p.m. Saturday. Contact Jones at for any open slots, or stop by and take a seat to support aspiring performers.

Bear on the Square Mountain Festival, Inc., which stages the festival each year, is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit cultural arts organization dedicated to preserving the culture of the Southern Appalachian region, including music, art and crafts, and folklife.



Streets around the square will close at 6 p.m. Friday, April 21, and reopen at 6 p.m. Sunday, April 23.

In addition, N. Chestatee in the block adjacent to the Square will close Thursday night and remain closed through the festival.

Warwick between N. Chestatee and Waters (by Shenanigans) will temporarily be two way during the festival.

Handicapped parking and a shuttle to the festival will be available in the UNG lot off West Main, one block off the square behind Woody’s Barber Shop and the Oyster Bar. 

For a map of street closures log on to

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The Dahlonega Nugget

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 36,
Dahlonega, GA 30533

Phone: 706-864-3613
Fax: 706-864-5812