Paddle faster, I hear bluegrass!

Canoegrass returns for a second year of tomfoolery 

By Zach Rogers 

Photo: Canoegrass will take place Aug. 15-17 at Adventures on the Great Miami in Tipp City

If you’re a fan of live music, you’ll pretty much go anywhere to see a cool band. Well, how about on a river? No, I mean literally, like the stage is on the river! 

Intriguing? If so, don’t miss the second annual Canoegrass festival taking place on the Great Miami River. Brought to you by Tomfoolery Outdoors and hosted by Adventures on the Great Miami, Canoegrass 2014 is set to take place Aug. 15-17 in Tipp City, and anyone coming out this year can expect plenty of music, camping, food, drinks and all kinds of riverfront shenanigans taking place throughout the weekend. 

“Ultimately, Canoegrass is a celebration of both the river and bluegrass music,” founder Tom Helbig said. “We try to maintain that vibe of just hanging out in your backyard, grilling some food, listening to great music – all with 500 of your best friends.” 

This year, the outdoor adventure and music festival will have a lineup of 11 regional bluegrass musicians, with all but one act coming from Dayton, Cincinnati or Columbus. They include Blue Caboose, Stillwater River Band, The Great Wide Open, Scott Lee and the Whiskey River Boys and Cinder Home, among others. As promised, music will take place both on land and on water, with music during the day coming from the River Stage before eventually moving to the Camp Stage at night.

“It’s definitely one of the most unique features of the festival,” Helbig said. “It’s great because people can enjoy the music in their chairs, in a canoe, in a kayak, in a raft, in a tube – and people love that!” 

Live music will be played on both Friday and Saturday, with tent camping provided along the riverfront. Celebrating the river lifestyle is what Canoegrass is all about, so come early to snag a good campground. Packing your own cooler and grub is highly encouraged, but if grilling out isn’t your thing, food trucks will be on hand serving up delicious BBQ, sandwiches, coffee, smoothies and other flavors for most of the weekend. All alcohol is BYOB (cans only, no bottles please!) and there will be none for sale once inside festival grounds. Set yourself up on Friday, then let loose without a care in the modern world – that is, until you finally have to leave on Sunday.

Activities include the ever-popular canoe jousting, squirt gun battles, Slip-N-Slide and a freestyle rope swinging contest. Other outdoor activities like fishing, hiking, biking and, of course, lots of canoeing and kayaking will be available over the course of the weekend. There’s such a focus on being outdoors, Canoegrass is even willing to give back to those who show their active spirit. 

“The festival is right next to the Great Miami Bikeway, so it provides a great opportunity for people to load up their gear on their bike and ride to the event,” Helbig said. “In fact, we’re actually going to give people $5 back on their admission if they choose a biking adventure for the entire weekend.” 

“Once we arrived and got settled, we realized pretty quickly it was going to be a memorable event,” said Tony Hall, who plays guitar, iron skillet and banjo in the band Blue Caboose, which will return this year after playing the inaugural Canoegrass event. “The good energy was alight throughout the entire venue. We started hearing stories about a giant Slip-N-Slide that ended in a mud puddle and jousting on the river, and by the time we got on stage there was a great crowd ready for us, and the party just got crazier from there. We knew absolutely, without hesitation, that we wanted to come back.”

Canoegrass started out as a simple idea from Helbig and it’s already gained a lot of momentum. After presenting the idea to the owner of Adventures on the Great Miami, the festival was set for last August, with about 200 people showing up to take part in the fun. Word spread via Facebook and word of mouth, and this year Helbig expects even more people to come and take part in the riverfront festival. 

“Last year, I saw we had a pretty good recipe for a really unique festival, and I obviously wanted to do it again this year,” Helbig said. “I wanted to bring even more value to the people who purchased tickets this year, and hopefully Canoegrass becomes something of an annual event here in Dayton people can look forward to each year.” 

So far, so good, as Canoegrass is already receiving praise from both fans and performers alike. 

“I see this festival growing in an organic way,” Hall said, “and by that I mean it will continue to get bigger and bigger, not through the efforts of promotions, commercials and advertising, but by word of mouth. Friends bringing friends, who in turn bring more friends, until finally it becomes a staple event in the Midwest.” 

Canoegrass 2014 will take place Friday-Sunday Aug. 15-17 at Adventures on the Great Miami, 1995 Ross Rd. in Tipp City. Tickets are $60 online (kids 13 and under are free) and $70 at the gate. Price does not include canoe and kayak rentals. For more information, please visit canoegrass.com. 

Reach DCP freelance writer Zach Rogers at ZachRogers@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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