Welcome folks, the time once again is upon us to head to the beautiful Ozarks for Yonder Mountain String Band’s annual Harvest Festival. Can’t picture Arkansas in the fall? Well if any of you have attended Wakarusa, think of the hills covered in the colors of autumn, the weather warm in the day, cool at night; it’s basically a picture of perfection. It’s like a smaller version of Wakarusa, except here the main language spoken is Bluegrass, yeeeeeeeehaw. No, but really, this is no ordinary festival. The mood here is lighter, the boys of Yonder Mountain String Band have put something together that is unlike any other festival I’ve attended and I’ve been around… the festival circuit that is. This is a guide to help you enjoy all that this lovely event has to offer.
What’s it going to be like?
Last year when I attended, even having arrived on the later end of things, I was still able to park in the main campground, INCREDIBLE. The camping set up is pretty standard: RV Camping, Reserved Camping, VIP Camping, Family Camping and GA Camping. The different areas are pretty self-explanatory. Family Camping is where the families go to be away from the rowdy, crazy, party people in GA Camping (which is where you’ll find my friends and I if you’re looking to dance around until the morning light). VIP Camping is for people who have VIP tickets; they are provided with meals, drinks, preferred viewing area at all the stages, round-the-clock staff, the works, basically. Its preeeeetty great if you have the dough to shell out for it. Reserved Camping is a camping upgrade that you can buy for those of you that like to camp in style. The area is fully shaded, each campsite is provided with water and electric hook ups, and they have access to the shower house, which us regular, smelly folk over in GA camping are quite envious of, obviously.
This isn’t your typical, jam-packed, everyone push through people and have no manners because you’re raving so hard kind of festival. This is exactly the opposite. The festival operates on a much smaller scale, people are kind and respectful, there are loads of families there and, for once, I don’t resent the parents for bringing children to a festival. This energy of this festival is safe, calm and beautiful. Now don’t get me wrong, things get romp, stompin’ crazy when the sun goes down, but the children aren’t there to witness that bit. They’re safely tucked away in their tents, probably with a stuffed elephant named Babar that they cuddle with.
But where is this lovely festival exactly?
At Mulberry Mountain Top, of course! Oh, you don’t know much about the backcountry of Arkansas? Me either! Well, lucky for us the genius people of Harvest provided a direct link to Google Maps with our destination, Mulberry Mountain Top pre-entered: helloooo directions! Thank goodness for modern day technology, can you picture how much of a disaster it would be for any of us to try and navigate our way there with a good old fashion paper map? I can see the headline now, “Hundreds Lost in the Woods of Arkansas Seeking Bluegrass Festival,” like I said, thank goodness for the rise of the smartphone.
But, what about the weather? Whatever shall I wear?
The weather is b-e-a-uuuutiful. During the days it’s in the mid-70’s and at night it’s in the mid-50’s, like I said, it’s wonderful there. Shorts and a t-shirt are fine for the day and I would suggest pants and a flannel and/or sweatshirt in the evening. It’s best if you wear something that you can tie around your waist, you’ll find that you dance so hard that you tend to warm up during the shows and don’t always want to wear your warm outer layers.
According to the AccuWeather app on my phone, it says that we could be expecting some rain during our time at Mulberry Mountain, so I would suggest bringing a raincoat and your favorite pair of rain boots. Unless, of course, you don’t care about being wet and muddy, then I’d just say pack as you will and prepare for the wook feet that accompany such decisions.
Now for the good stuff, aka all the FANTASTIC MUSIC WE’RE GOING TO SEE.
Before we give you our Swaager recommended acts not to be missed, we would like to preface it with the fact that half of the experience of a festival is wandering around and experiencing bands you may have not heard before, but could be your next favorite band in the whole wide world. So don’t try to stick to a strict schedule, mosey around a bit, let your intuition guide you and you’ll get to experience the festival a bit more than you expected. That’s half the fun of being at a festival, you just never know what you’re going to find.
Just one more note, these recommendations are more focused on smaller bands that we love and hope you’ll love too. We assume that you know that we recommend going to see the headliners (ahem YONDER, YAY!) and don’t need to write that down for you. Also, if there is a star next to the band we recommend, that means they play more than one set at the festival. So don’t fret if you miss one of their sets because you’ll get another chance.
Delta Rae: 1:30-2:30, Backwoods Stage
*Mountain Sprout: 3:30-4:15, Main Stage
William Elliott Whitmore: 4:00-5:00, Harvest Tent
*Dirtfoot: 4:45-6:00, Main Stage
Punch Brothers: 8:30-10:00, Main Stage
Larry Keel & Natural Bridge: 9:00- 10:30, Harvest Tent
Funk Trek : 11:00-12:00, The Roost
Brother Joscephus & the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra: 12:30-2:00, Backwoods Stage
MONTU: 2:00-3:00, The Roost
Adam Aijala and Larry Keel: 1:30-2:30, Backwoods Stage
*Elephant Revival: 2:00-3:15, Main Stage
Trampled Under Foot: 4:30-6:00, Backwoods Stage
Sam Bush: 5:30-7:00, Main Stage
The Giving Tree Band: 6:30-7:30, The Roost
Mickey Hart Band: 7:30-9:30, Main Stage
*Leftover Salmon: 12:30-2:00, Harvest Tent
*Split Lip Rayfield: 12:30-2:00, Backwoods Stage
*Cornmeal: 1:45-3:00, Main Stage
Mishka: 2:30-3:45, Harvest Tent
*Elephant Revival: 3:00-4:15, Backwoods Stage
*Split Lip Rayfield: 3:30-5:00, Main Stage
Zach Deputy: 4:15-5:30, Harvest Tent
North Mississippi All Stars: 5:30-7:00, Main Stage
Big Sam’s Funky Nation: 6:00-7:30, Harvest Tent
*Leftover Salmon: 7:30-9:00, Main Stage
Now for the activitiesssssss!
Mulberry Mountaintop is simply bursting at the seams with activities for you to do while you’re there. The festival has competitions, activities, workshops, disk golf, hiking trails. Phew, don’t you feel a little exhausted just thinking about all the possibilities?
Here’s a nice little schedule to summarize the activities at the Roost tent, which will be an activity hub for the entirety of the weekend, woohoo!
The amount of different activities you can participate in is astounding.
First off, you need to remember to visit the arts & crafts vendors. The products they have are amazing, even if you’re not in the market to make a purchase; it’s worth perusing none-the-less.
Morning Yoga? Poi Spinning? Tie Dye? Hoop Construction? The Roost has it all! With all these activities, you’re sure to find something to fill up your morning before the music begins. Note to the wise, when the schedule says its a “kids” activity, they only mean that it is kid friendly; these activities are for people of all ages. Come one, come all; it’s time to play!
The music workshops they offer give you a chance to sit down with some of the bigger artists at the festival and hear about their processes, how they make music and give you a chance to learn from the best.
The Second Annual Fiddlin’ and Pickin’ Contest! I think y’all know what this means. It gives us attendees with musical skills a chance to strut our stuff on the Mandolin, Fiddle, Flatpicker or Banjo! Even if you aren’t skilled, it’s worth stopping by to hear the talents of others and to cheer them on!
Since Mulberry Mountaintop is normally an outdoor vacation destination when not hosting amazing music festivals, there are lots of activities to do around the mountain itself.
You can enjoy a nice round of disk-golf on their 9-hole course!
You can hike to the waterfall and enjoy the cool, refreshing water (a highly recommended activity)! Or go hiking on the miles of trails in the Ozark National Forest! Which is where you are when you’re at Mulberry Mountaintop if you were wondering.
Pearls of Wisdom from us to you!
Now that you’ve read our survival guide to Harvest Festival, I hope that you feel a bit more prepared about what you’re going to encounter. A few last reminders before you go:
Just because it’s not a thousand degrees, does not mean water is not essential! Drink lots of water! Dehydration is not specific to the summer months.
Take care of each other! Your friends and the people around you at the festival are your family. Watch out for one another. If you see someone in need, help them. It never hurts to rack up a few good karma points, plus, no one likes an inconsiderate butthead.
Leave no trace! Come on people, we want to be able to come back. Take care of your campsite and pack it out when you leave.
Have so much fun!!!!!!!! We know we will and we hope that you do too.
See ya on the mountaintop!