Annapolis Baygrass Music Festival will return to Sandy Point State Park on the scenic Chesapeake Bay beachfront in Annapolis, MD on September 30th and October 1st for two days of music, fun, community, and environmental sustainability.

While the event’s name may seem like a simple play on words for a bluegrass festival on the bay, its multiple layers of significance underscore the festival’s mission of preserving and revitalizing the crucial Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. A watershed, sometimes referred to as a drainage basin, is an area of land that drains into a particular body of water. The Chesapeake Bay watershed spans more than 64,000 square miles, encompassing parts of six states—Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia—and the entire District of Columbia. It affects more than 18 million people who live and work within its boundaries.

But today, the Chesapeake Bay is ailing. High levels of nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment from a variety of pollutants have fueled unnaturally high levels of algae growth and clouded the water, blocking sunlight from reaching underwater grasses—or “bay grasses“—that serve as both food and habitat and also smothering bottom-dwelling species like oysters, which naturally filter the bay’s water.

With the protection of the bay’s delicate ecosystem folded in at every level, Annapolis Baygrass Music Festival, launched in 2021, aims to effect change and educate the masses simply by bringing awareness to the cause in a fun, welcoming, celebratory atmosphere. Alongside the event’s heavy-hitting alternative bluegrass-focused music lineup, attendees will see information booths, bay-focused art and photography, and various children’s activities, while an “elevated food and drink experience” featuring locally sourced crab cakes, oysters, and other delicacies as well as custom-brewed beers by Idiom Brewery (“Troubled Waters”) and Pherm Brewing (“Baytoberfest”) will allow patrons to “taste the bay.”In addition, a comprehensive onsite sustainability initiative will ensure that best practices are followed with regard to recycling, reusing, and composting waste, while 10% of all proceeds from ticket, food, beverage, and merchandise sales will benefit Maryland-based nonprofit organizations that work to protect the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. Nonprofit partners like Watershed Stewards Academy, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, and the Oyster Recovery Partnership will also be on site to provide an immersive educational element to the proceedings via a series of workshops.

As festival co-founder Ron Peremel, a certified watershed steward, explained to Live For Live Music of the event’s unique appeal, “Everybody in this area, they care about the watershed of the Chesapeake Bay. They play, swim, fish, boat, crab in it. They’re economically affected by it. It’s a really important thing that people care about, but don’t know how to fix it.

“Just by having fun,” he continued, “You’re helping to protect this important body of water that affects 19 million people in six states within the Chesapeake Bay watershed and supports over 3,600 species of fish, wildlife, and plants.”

The Oyster Recovery Partnership, in particular, embodies that approach. The organization will add to the Baygrass formula by educating about and furthering its oyster recycling program, which partners with local restaurants and food suppliers to actively re-plant the shells of harvested oysters, a process that both maintains the shells’ crucial filtration and anti-erosion properties in the ecosystem and preserves the sustainability of local businesses that rely on the bay’s natural resources. “Eat an oyster, plant an oyster, and you’re doing something great for the bay,” Peremel said.

“You don’t have to be technical,” he added. “All you gotta do is show up and you’re doing something. That’s the beauty of the concept and how it actualizes into really affecting and putting things to work from others who can do it. You just need to learn about it and show up and have some fun. As we like to say, every jam saves the bay!”

With a lineup featuring Yonder Mountain String Band, Railroad Earth, Keller & The Keels, Melvin Seals & JGB, Fruition, Cabinet, Cris Jacobs & Smooth Kentucky, Jon Stickley Trio, Arkansauce, The Dirty Grass Players, The High & Wides, Wicked Sycamore, and Lindsay Lou (full band and artist-at-large), the bay-saving jams will flow freely at Annapolis Baygrass Music Festival 2023, but one jam in particular is sure to encapsulate both sides of the mission: This year, the festival has designated “In The Water”, the conservation-themed track by Baygrass house band Geraldine, as the event’s official theme song. Penned by John Bolten, Ph.D., the Geraldine singer/songwriter/guitarist who also serves as chief of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Hydrological Sciences Lab, the song was recorded with special guest Cris Jacobs for the band’s recent album, Paw Paw.

Various GA and VIP ticket options for Annapolis Baygrass Music Festival at Annapolis, MD’s Sandy Point State Park on September 30th and October 1st, 2023 are now on sale via the festival website. Check out the complete daily lineups below. For more information on the event, head here.