Firmly rooted

2014 Fort Ancient Bluegrass Festival

By Zach Rogers

Photo: Whiskey Bent Valley performs at the 2013 Fort Ancient Bluegrass Festival

Jim Morrison once sang something about summer almost being gone. “We had some good times,” he crooned, “but they’re gone.” In another line, he asks, “Where will we be/When the summer’s gone?” I don’t know about you, but I just can’t handle this right now, Jim!

Yes, it’s true, another summer has come and gone, and that usually signals the end of the outdoor festival season as well. But the folks at Fort Ancient aren’t quite ready to take the Lizard King’s word for it. They’re gearing up to celebrate the third annual Fort Ancient Bluegrass Festival, which takes place on Saturday, Sept. 20 from 11:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m., at the tail end of the festival season.

The self-described “day-to-dusk music festival” takes place out at the Fort Ancient State Memorial site in Oregonia, “high atop a bluff overlooking the Little Miami River,” according to the festival’s homepage. Acting as a fundraising event for the historic site, it was started back in 2012 by two local bluegrass musicians, Tayler Bishop and Justin Williamson, who reached out to site manager Jack Blosser about hosting some sort of fundraiser for Fort Ancient, one that could mix music, food, fun and education. Both were already familiar with the area, since both had played and attended festivals across the region over the years, and they thought it would make the perfect spot for a music festival. Since that inaugural event in 2012, it’s been a recurring event each year, attracting attendees who crave a unique musical experience in a beautiful outdoor environment.

“Unlike festivals that take place in more populated settings, this event provides a unique view of a national historic landmark,” explained Kristy Creel, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the Dayton Society of National History, which manages Fort Ancient on behalf of the Ohio History Connection. She also handles marketing and photography for the festival. “It gives visitors the chance to discover 2,000 years of Ohio history, all while enjoying a casual day of music, food and entertainment.”

All the proceeds from the festival’s ticket and merchandise sales go directly to help benefit the education programs that take place at Fort Ancient throughout the year, and for 2014 they’re hoping for their biggest year yet. With nearly eight hours of live music spread across a lineup of seven acts, there’s sure to be no shortage of bluegrass and American roots music. Bands include the Haddix Family, Second Time Around and Whiskey Bent Valley, just to name a few.

On top of live music, there will be multiple artisan and food vendors scattered throughout the festival, with added perks like craft beer available in some hotspots. In previous years, there’s been a designated “jam” stage for those adventurous enough to bring their own instrument and play a song or two between sets, but this year a special treat comes courtesy of Guitar Center – the instruments will be provided for the guests to try out themselves. Other amenities include an area just for kids to run, jump and play around to their hearts’ content. Of course, there’s always the natural wonder of Fort Ancient festival attendees get to soak up during the daylong festivities.

“Visitors will have access to the entire site,” Creel said. “They can choose to hike the trails, visit the museum or simply wander to the scenic overlooks near the stage site to take in the views.”

Planning for each year’s event has been kept to a small and successful committee of community managers and organizers. The committee works together to get in touch with the bands, organize the day’s lineup of music and activities, and choose the different vendors for food, drinks and other things that might appeal to the festival crowd. They’re also in charge of negotiating sponsors for the event, and this year’s list includes Extermital Termites & Pest Control, Wright Brothers, Inc., Guitar Center, Lebanon Rotary, Morgan’s Canoe Livery, Bone & Bone CPA’s and Lebanon Electric.

Fort Ancient was granted National Historic Landmark status in 1964, which officially indicated it had exceptional value in commemorating and illustrating the history of the United States. The official status helped to promote the historic preservation of the land, as well as provide a significant historical site for public awareness and education. With a throwback to the bygone American roots of years past, the Fort Ancient Bluegrass Festival aligns perfectly with the site’s vast historical presence.

The 2014 Fort Ancient Bluegrass Festival will take place on Saturday, Sept. 20 from 11:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m. at Fort Ancient Archaeological Park, 6123 Ohio 350 in Oregonia. Tickets are $20 for adults 17 and up and $25 the day of. Children ages 6-16 are $5 and children 5 and under get in for free. Tickets can be purchased online. Pets are allowed, no coolers. For more information, please visit or call 513.932.4421.

Reach DCP freelance writer Zach Rogers at

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