Since its founding in 2006, Bears Picnic has grown organically from an annual weekend festival to a cultural pillar of Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna Valley region.
In addition to Bears Picnic Family Reunion, which is set to take place August 4th–7th with a lineup featuring two nights of Leftover Salmon, Ghost Light, and more, the core organizing team will present the upcoming 7th Annual Grateful Get Down on June 23rd–26th. Hosted by PA jamgrass stalwarts Cabinet, the event will feature a stacked artist lineup including Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass, Dark Star Orchestra, Steve Kimock & Friends, Big Something, Gatos Blancos, and more. Both festivals will take place at Blain Picnic Grounds in Blain, PA.
The inspiration to start Bears Picnic was solidified during a conversation with New Riders of the Purple Sage pedal steel guitarist Buddy Cage. “I was working on Jam Cruise and I was hanging out with Buddy Cage, and he told me that New Riders of the Purple Sage were getting ready to come back up and then it just kind of clicked right there,” Ehrsam said. New Riders of the Purple Sage served as the hosts of Bears Picnic until 2015 when they stopped touring.
After suffering the loss of three festival partners and experiencing some COVID-related obstacles over the past few years, Bears Picnic is now “building it back up,” according to Ehrsam, with a tantalizing 2022 program that will include two nights of Leftover Salmon, Ghost Light, Moon Hooch, Magic Beans, Rumpke Mountain Boys, and more. As always, the lineup will highlight a balanced mix of top touring talent and local artists, like Knorrwood and Willie Jack & the Northern Light, who will also perform at the Grateful Get Down.
While both festivals will take place at the same location with comparable lineups, organizers expect the Get Down to attract “a whole new fresher, younger crowd,” potentially double the number of Bears Picnic attendees. Both festivals are capped at 3,000, making them relatively small in scale and therefore more intimate than larger events.
One of the unique features both festivals share is the role of the host band. Just as New Riders of the Purple Sage once hosted Bears Picnic, Cabinet will serve as hosts of the Grateful Get Down.
“We’re partnering with Cabinet on a lot of different levels,” Ehrsam said. “And we are planning on growing this into something spectacular that involves everybody’s dream and can grow and grow each year. Pretty much what my goal is, is to get the artists’ involvement to where the artists are part of the community and the people can actually come and mingle with the artists in a safe environment to where it’s not uncomfortable for anybody.”
In addition to musical performances by Keller Williams, Dark Star Orchestra, Steve Kimock, and multiple nights with multiple sets of Cabinet (plus a bonus children’s set), Get Down attendees will have the opportunity to enjoy onsite yoga, interactive art, glass blowing demonstrations, swimming, and vendors selling everything from handcrafts and jewelry to furniture and high-end artwork. There will even be a gallery with rare original artworks by Stanley Mouse, Jerry Garcia, and Mickey Hart.
Familiar festival favorite food carts will provide nourishment alongside local food and beverage vendors (beer is BYOB, no alcohol will be served), and children will be able to enjoy dedicated kids programming, an onsite playground, and other child-friendly activities throughout the weekend.
Camping is permitted onsite, with a range of options available including shaded spots in a scenic wooded grove area and car camping, and each group will have ample room to accommodate social distancing. Camp sites are first come first served, so be sure to arrive early to get your pick.
“The main stage is kind of centralized,” Ehrsam assured, “so no matter where you’re camping at you’re within a five minute walk of the stage and you’re by your car.” He added, “The area is beautiful, with bald eagles flying overhead and trout swimming in the stream. You got everything you could want right there at the venue, and there is no light pollution at night so the stars are absolutely amazing.”
The team behind Bears Picnic also recently opened the Susquehanna Valley Event Center, a 10,000-cap outdoor venue that is destined to become one of the region’s top live music destinations.
“We live up here in Selinsgrove, PA, so we’re trying to do something local for the community,” said Ehrsam. “I grew up here in Selinsgrove and there was no music venues. You’d have to drive hours each way to see music. And that was definitely something this area’s missed. So right now we’re just trying to develop music here.”
Soon, the venue will include a 6,000 square foot indoor facility, which will also hold concerts. Though it hasn’t been announced yet, the plan is to host Cabinet when it opens in October, and a Cabinet New Year’s Eve celebration is also in the works.
Tickets for the 7th Annual Grateful Get Down and Bears Picnic are available here. View the Grateful Get Down daily schedule below, and for more information on either festival or the Susquehanna Valley Event Center, click here.