Admission is $12 at the gate and there are 18 bands playing this year, said Chuck Langley, event coordinator, who estimated some 1,200 people will come and enjoy the music during the weekend.
“It’s a 100 percent family friendly environment,” Langley said. “It’s all family entertainment. We don’t have any drugs and alcohol, especially in the concert area.”
The history of bluegrass music runs deep with southern heritage, said Langley.
“Bluegrass music originated with the Scots-Irish immigrants back around the 1600s,” he said. “They settled in the Appalachian mountains. When they got over here their main instrument was the fiddle, then we added the mandolin and the banjo.”
The first Armuchee Bluegrass Festival was in the early 1970s, he said, and it was conducted in a pasture on Old Dalton Road. Having come a long way since then, Langley said people from all across the U.S. have come to little Armuchee to hear the authentic music.
“I remember one year in particular, our first advanced tickets were sold in Philadelphia and we’ve had a family that came from Hawaii that had come over here to tour the United States,” he said. “They’d seen our ad in Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine, which is worldwide.”
Nestled beneath the shade in the campground area, families and bluegrass lovers jammed together playing their favorites. David Reece of Lyerly said bluegrass isn’t just music, it’s a way of life. “I like bluegrass because it’s in my heart,” Reece said. “I was raised on it. That’s all there was.”
Reece, 60, said he first heard bluegrass as a child in the early 1950s. He and his family have been coming to the Armuchee Bluegrass Festival since it first started. “I’ve been coming here 40 years, but I missed two, and that’s when I got drafted. I was overseas in Germany, and I couldn’t make it.”
Reece, who plays both mandolin and guitar, said the real party begins when darkness falls and the music doesn’t truly stop until dawn.
“It’s hard to tell about it, you’ve got to be here to experience it,” he said, shaking his head slightly. “All the bands on the stage and everybody on the ground, we light the lanterns up and this whole place is full of great musicians, professional musicians. We play ’til we get tired or pass out.”
The same faces come each year and always bring new ones, he said. But really, the Armuchee Music Festival is more like a reunion for the scores of musicians that flock there every summer and fall.
“It is the best place that I’ve ever been in my life because it is not actually just a festival, it’s a family reunion,” Reese said. “We’re all family and a lot of us, we live in different places, but we get to see each other twice a year, on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. So this is actually a 40-year reunion.”