As Canada’s oldest Bluegrass Festival and North America’s 2nd oldest continuously operating, the Nova Scotia Bluegrass and Oldtime Music Festival is a family event presented by the Downeast Bluegrass and Oldtime Music Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of bluegrass music in Eastern Canada.
Gates open on Monday and the entertainment starts Thursday evening with our annual Thursday Evening Open Mic which will be featuring some special guests this year! This year’s festival band lineup includes Junior Sisk & Rambler’s Choice (Virginia US), Acoustic Heartstrings (NB), The Bluegrass Unit (NS), Next Generation (NS), The Bluegrass Diamonds (NB), Janet McGarry & Wildwood (PEI), Ryan Dillman & Shadow River (NS), and Bluegrass Tradition (NS). Saturday features workshops for beginners to advanced players chances to improve their skills, the 4th Annual Youth Concert (a real treat you won’t want to miss!), as well as an afternoon Children’s program, introducing kids to the music while giving parents an afternoon break and a chance to see their pride and joy play on the big stage. A non-denominational Church service is available Sunday morning.
The festival also features on-site first-aid and security, indoor and portable toilets; hot, indoor showers and a variety of on-site concessions. We hope to see you at the 46th Annual Nova Scotia Bluegrass and Oldtime Music Festival.
The story of the Annual Nova Scotia Bluegrass Festival is one of humble beginnings, fantastic fans and many moves. Although the site location has changed a number of times over the years, the Festival continues to produce some of the finest entertainment in Eastern Canada.
We owe much to Fred Isenor and Vic Mullin who were the founders of the Annual Nova Scotia Bluegrass Festival. They were playing together for a benefit in the summer of 1971 when they decided to try and host a Bluegrass Festival the following summer. John Moxom was having barn dances in his barn in Hardwoodlands at that time, so Fred and Vic convinced John to host a festival on his property. The very first festival was held at John Moxom’s Farm on August 4th, 1972 with performances by three volunteer local bands. It was an evening session only and the stage was made from a farm wagon with a canopy over it. As it began to get dark the guests, who were sitting in their cars in front of the stage, shone their car lights in order to see the entertainers. The success of the first year was great enough to make Fred and Vic decide to make it an annual event and the festival became registered as the Annual Nova Scotia Bluegrass & Oldtime Music Festival to be held on the last full week-end of July. With attendance growing each year, a proper stage was built and band members made their first dollar playing for the festival at the 3rd annual in 1974. Profits had increased and each band got a cheque for $10.00 for playing at what was now a two evening festival.
Soon outgrowing Moxom’s Farm, in 1977 the 6th Annual was moved to Green Valley Campground at Nine Mile River and to a 3 day event with 9 Maritime bands and one from the United States.
In 1981 the 10th Annual Festival was moved to Black Rock, NS but only remained there for one year before moving to Beechbrook Campground in Ardoise, NS. At its arrival in Ardoise the festival began a new format and worked toward a family atmosphere by increasing the volunteer staff to around 40 or 50 people plus the Board of Directors. These folks were on duty during most of the week prior to the festival as well as the festival itself. With a continually growing crowd, security was hired to be in attendance all weekend.
Here the Festival celebrated its 13th year with entertainment by the Father and Founder of Bluegrass Music, Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. Whoever said 13 was unlucky should have been there when many heard Bill Monroe in person for the first time. In 1985 the Festival was honoured to host the great and famed Charlie Waller and the Country Gentlemen, another first for the Maritimes. With the help of CBC’S Ocean Ltd, the entertainers and fans at the Festival got together to form the world’s largest Bluegrass band. It was 10 AM on Saturday the 27th of July when a band consisting of 250 people played and sang ‘Will The Circle Be Unbroken’, among other songs. This session was recorded and later heard on CBC Radio and was also registered in the Guinness book of World records for the world’s largest Bluegrass band. In 1996 the Festival celebrated its 25th year with the multi talented and International Bluegrass Music Association Award Winning Del McCoury Band from Tennessee.
On its 28th event, the 1998 Festival adopted another new home, that being Avon River Park in Mt Denson, Nova Scotia, where it remained until its 33rd year in 2004. From 2005 to 2008 the Annual Nova Scotia Bluegrass & Oldtime Music Festival was hosted at Lloyd & Sandra MacPhee’s property in East Stewiacke next to the beautiful Stewiacke River.
2009 saw the Festival move to it’s current location in the hub of Nova Scotia, at the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition Grounds in Bible Hill just outside of Truro. During the festival there are instrument and vocal workshops and many concessions selling various items such as souvenir T Shirts, Ball Caps, recordings, instruments, accessories (including repairs), plus a variety of food concessions.