A Look Ahead to This Year’s Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival

Four decades since its creation, the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival has not just survived but flourished. The beloved five-day celebration of all bluegrass music is set to return to Oak Hill, NY, this summer, from July 17–21.

Grey Fox

The Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival is one of the oldest continuously running bluegrass festivals in the U.S. Now, the festival is celebrating its 40th anniversary and the 16th year of Oak Hill as its home. Throughout its many years of operation, Grey Fox has grown into a community essential, now being a foundational annual event for locals in the Oak Hill area. For anybody who enjoys bluegrass music, or even just live music for that matter, Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival should be on your list of New York’s summer festivals to visit.

One of Grey Fox’s specialties is the variety they put into every year’s lineup. “We want to have a wide and diverse lineup. We consider ourselves a really big umbrella to bluegrass and roots music,” said Grey Fox Festival Executive Director Mary Burdette. Don’t come to Grey Fox expecting just traditional bluegrass. There’s so much more to discover. “We do embrace all sorts of bluegrass, from traditional to contemporary, jamgrass and jazzy,” Burdette said.

One of the most diverse groups coming to Grey Fox this year is the South Korean bluegrass band Country GongBang. Country GongBang won the International Band Performance Grant in 2023, which gave them the financial assistance they needed to tour in the U.S., with the Grey Fox being one of their stops. Country GongBang’s unique take on contemporary bluegrass music with a mix of English and Korean vocals has already garnered them international attention, with the group already playing festivals in Japan and France. The quintet is set to play Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Grey Fox.

Le Vent du Nord, a French-Canadian folk band, is another standout in the lineup. The seasoned quintet, with more than 2,500 performances all across the globe, has an upcoming album that will celebrate their 20th anniversary as a band and “promises to be a vibrant testament to their evolving artistry.” Shows from Le Vent du Nord often include elements of audience participation and should be a must-see for anybody at Grey Fox looking for a lively set.

Wyatt Ellis, a 14-year-old bluegrass prodigy, is a show that any and all true bluegrass fans can’t miss. Ellis, who played at the Grand Ole Opry just eight months ago, has already garnered major attention in the bluegrass community. His debut single, “Grassy Cove,” even went to #1 on the Bluegrass Today charts. “He’s an old soul in a young body,” Burdette said. Ellis is set to play at Grey Fox on Saturday, the 20th.

Grey Fox

On top of the festival’s lineup, every year the Grey Fox Festival designates an artist or group as that year’s artist-in-residence, who will spend the festival bouncing between different stages, playing with other artists on the setlist. This year’s artist-in-residence is Grammy-nominated all-women string band, Della Mae.

Della Mae has long been closely associated with Grey Fox, with one of their first gigs ever being at the festival nearly 15 years ago. Celia Woodsmith, the guitarist and vocalist of Della Mae, even met her husband at Grey Fox. “They love, love, love Grey Fox, and we’re really excited to have them,” Burdette said.

While the music is certainly the highlight of the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, there’s much more that comes with the experience.

The festival is held on the scenic Walsh Farm in Oak Hill, NY, right next to Catskill Creek. There is ample space for both quiet camping and picker’s paradise camping, where you can expect after-midnight jammin’, along with the six separate performance stages. All the other essentials, like first aid, security and information booths, are present as well. A map of the full grounds can be found here.

Grey Fox has been held at Walsh Farm for 16 years, so naturally, the grounds have become special to those who come every year. With the festival itself celebrating its 40th anniversary, enough time has passed that generations of families have grown while attending Grey Fox. “One year I sent our media team out to find a good story, and they stopped at this campsite, and there was an infant, parents, grandparents and a great-grandmother all at that campsite, and they’d been coming all those years,” said Burdette.

A massive appeal of Grey Fox and one of the reasons why multiple generations of families can all come together is the festival’s family-friendly nature. Besides the billed artists, which people of any age can enjoy, kids have an entire stage dedicated to them, Family Stage. The Family Stage is home to a myriad of child-friendly activities, including tie-dying, instrument making, nature crafts, yoga for kids, family concerts, dances, sing-alongs, storytelling, puppetry, ventriloquism, movies and more. “We also have a bluegrass academy for kids, and we’ve had as many as 120 kids from ages eight to 17 learning to play, sing and perform bluegrass music,” Burdette said.

Grey Fox

For those who have never been to the Grey Fox Festival, there isn’t too much to worry about. Take the time to learn the lay of the land. There’s no reason to rush, so get acquainted with the stage layouts and where all the other essentials are. “If you don’t really know the music that much, you can just kind of wander around, and you’ll hit something that you love,” Burdette said. No matter where you go on the grounds, music and good times will be happening, so the specifics are not too important. 

The music even continues throughout the night, with countless families and groups jamming out in the picker’s paradise camping sections seemingly endlessly. According to Burdette, people will usually be jamming until 6 a.m.

And if the atmosphere gets the best of you and you think about joining in, you’re in luck. The Slow Jam Tent, which runs Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, is primarily for musical novices and features beginner instrumental classes, vocal workshops, and slow jams meant to help anybody with any level of experience. “Every day, all day long, they’re teaching people how to play, and then how to jam, and how to take solos if they’re ready. How to be in the background if they’re not, and just how to play well with others. The people around the campgrounds are just really, really friendly,” Burdette said. 

So if you’re looking for a culture-filled music festival with something for all ages, look no further than the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival this July.

See below for lineup.

Full Lineup:

Della Mae (Artist-in-Residence)
Del McCoury Band
Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway
Yonder Mountain String Band
The Steeldrivers
The Travelin’ McCourys
The Gibson Brothers
Sister Sadie
I Draw Slow
Sam Grisman Project
Wyatt Ellis
Darol Anger & Bruce Molsky
Charlie Parr
The Mammals
Chris Jones & The Night Drivers
Pine Leaf Boys
Charm City Junction
Casey Driessen’s Red Shoe Stringjam
Brennen Leigh
The Faux Paws
Joe Newberry
Twisted Pine
Mike+Ruthy (of The Mammals)
Zoe & Cloyd
Unspoken Tradition
John, Trish & Quickstep
Jim Gaudet & The Railroad Boys
Mark Gamsjager & The Lustre Kings
Mild Goose Chase
Niamh Parsons & Graham Dunne
Country GongBang
The Cross-Eyed Possum
Rachel Sumner & Traveling Light
Into The Fog
The Clements Brothers
Berklee American Roots Music Showcase

Tickets to the full festival with camping are available here. Single-day tickets will be available soon as well.

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