Bluegrass music as old as the hills and as new as today will liven up the Allegany County Fairgrounds in Cumberland, Md., for DelFest on Memorial Day weekend. Cumberland is in Western Maryland, about a 2 1/2-hour drive from Washington, D.C.
The 10th annual music festival, scheduled for May 25–28, is always a crowd-pleaser, with 35,000 fans attending over the course of the event. A majority of attendees are from Maryland, Washington, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, but overall last year hailed from 45 states and 13 countries.
Bluegrass legend Del McCoury, who has entertained audiences for more than 50 years, is the star behind DelFest, which is produced in association with High Sierra Music. Back in the day, McCoury played with the likes of Bill Monroe & the Blue Grass Boys. Over the years, he has performed everywhere from the Grand Ole Opry to the Bonnaroo Music Festival. The York, Pa., native continues to appear on TV shows, has received nine Entertainer of the Year awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association, and as recently as 2014 won his second Grammy with The Del McCoury Band.
Other festival headliners include the Trey Anastasio Band, Gov’t Mule, and The Travelin’ McCourys (with Dierks Bentley).
Like a family reunion
“DelFest is like a family reunion,” said Chris Harris, who promotes the festival. “We have a lot of repeat customers whose kids have literally grown up with the festival. There are some 10-year-old kids that have been to every DelFest. So, we are very family-friendly.”
Among the special aspects of the festival are the spontaneous collaborations that occur. Del McCoury pops in to play with some of the groups, and his son, Ronnie McCoury, regularly sits in on 10 to 12 sets during the weekend.
There is also an artist-at-large, who appears in numerous shows.
“There’s a mix of music, but it all comes back to the relationships with the McCoury family,” said Harris. “You won’t find another festival that can mix something as traditional a Junior Sisk with something as progressive as Gov’t Mule or Trey Anastasio (former front man for Phish). Del is the glue that holds it all together.”
Among other performers scheduled to appear are Bela Fleck and Chris Thile, Leftover Salmon, Hot Rize, The Infamous Stringdusters, Steep Canyon Rangers, Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, Sierra Hull, Jeff Austin Band, Cabinet, Donna the Buffalo, Fruition, Sara Watkins, Noam Pikelny, Billy Strings, Joe Craven & The Sometimers, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, and Dre’s Gospel Collective.
There also are late night jams that require a special ticket. Artist bios and other details are on the event’s website, delfest.com.
The atmosphere is relaxed, and includes the Kidzone with activities, an arts and crafts fair, movement play shops (such as yoga), and a variety of food and beverage vendors.
Attendees have the option of on-site camping, or lodging in nearby Cumberland, which has many shopping, arts, and dining opportunities.
Prior to the festival is a four-day DelFest Academy, during which all-star musicians teach various instruments to students of all levels.
When: May 25–28
Where: Cumberland, Md.