Music washes away concerns about weather on opening night of Black Swamp Arts Festival

Pimps of Joytime performs Friday Night at the Black Swamp Arts Festival


BG Independent News

On Friday night the music came through at the Black Swamp Arts Festival.

For organizers, the day had been tense one as a forecast for severe weather with high winds and a series thunderstorms threatened to wipe out Sunday’s show.

Kevin Geils of Two Tons of Steel

It was a day of consultations with emergency management officials, public works and public safety officials, city administrators, and the musicians, artists and vendors who make the show possible. In the end the committee salvaged what it could by moving most musical acts indoors. 

The art show and youth activities for Sunday had to be canceled… and the logistics of helping more than 200 artists pack up and leave on Saturday night instead of Sunday afternoon had to be confronted. 

All this while volunteers hustled to get the stages up and vendors in place for a 5 p.m. opening. 

Then festival opener Drew Joseph took the stage. Shortly before during a final soundcheck, he sang “tonight’s the night.”

Rain was in the air, but as the night proceeded, that proved prescient. Tonight was the night that despite lingering light showers, the music washed that all away.

Band after band pumped the air full of energy. Rock at first with Joseph, and then exuberant rockabilly with Two Tons of Steel.

Billy Strings

Then high powered, psychedelic bluegrass with Billy Strings hit with relentless virtuosity that tore at the seams of the genre.

The show ended with the shimmering funk grooves of Pimps of Joytime. 

And festival goers were in the swing as well. They  danced to the music, munched on the varied delectables from vendors, sipping beer, undeterred by the few rain drops that were falling.

Bill Donnelly, who chairs the all-volunteer board that stages the event, was pleased with the energy the music brought.

“The crowd was as big as any Friday night we’ve had,” he said early Saturday morning while artists were setting up for today’s art show.

Organizers, he said, will have to keep an eye on the weather, but plans are for all events to go on as scheduled.

Sunday will be a different story.

The forecast from Brad Gilbert, the county EMA director, are dismal with storms that are threatening.

The decision to close out all outdoor activities on Sunday and move music into inside was made out of concern for artists, visitors, and volunteers.

That forecast, he said Friday, was consistent throughout the day, and unvarying in its promise of damaging storms.

That left the committee with no option but to pull the plug, and try to save what it could.

That also means additional work for the volunteers, who will now have to clear Main Street by 10 p.m. tonight, and clean and clear as much of the Main Stage area as possible, though some of that will be left until Monday.

The committee is asking volunteers who have shifts on Sunday to consider volunteering tonight. 

(BG Independent News collaborates with the Black Swamp Arts Festival, and David Dupont serves as chair of  marketing and advertising for the festival.)