CDC gives bluegrass fans an extra reason to celebrate in Gettysburg

Arts & Entertainment

ADAMS COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — It was already shaping up to be a milestone along the road back to normalcy. And that was before festivalgoers heard the news that the CDC would recommend lifting most mask mandates for most vaccinated people.

So the opening of the twice-canceled Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival (May and August 2020) and the lifting of the mask mandate, all in one day?

“I am so excited!” said singer-songwriter Donna Ulisse moments after performing and seconds after hearing the CDC news. “Are you kidding? I’m ready for normal. I mean, looking out at a sea of faces and being able to see a smile, it makes me want to cry. But I’m happy. I could dance for you if I have to.”

“Would you?” we asked her.

She proceeded to do what we can only describe as — and what we can only hope she takes no offense at us describing as — a silly little dance while singing, “No mask! No mask!”

The festival runs through Sunday at Granite Hill Resort.

Organizers, who began planning the event back when no one could be certain even how things would be outside by now, made COVID-safe modifications — for example, no shared microphones and bands doing their pre-performance preparations in their own buses. And fans had to carry their own lawn chairs in and out each time they came and went, for now changing the longtime tradition that you could claim a spot with your chair days before the festival — but someone else was welcome to sit there while you weren’t using it.

Sammy Shelor, of The Lonesome River Band, said 2020 was — to understate the obvious — tough: “a hit on the pocketbook and on the attitude,” he said, “because this is what we do.”

Why did a bluegrass legend, who has been performing at the festival since 1983, worry about practicing so diligently before Thursday night’s performance with his band on their bus? For the same reason, a lot of us are rusty at whatever we do.

“I’ve got a four-year-old son, so I do ‘daddy daycare’ during the week, and I don’t get much practice time at home,” he said, laughing. “So yeah, we’re knocking the dust off.”

How does Gay Shepherd Henderson of Shepherdstown, W.V. (yes, a town named for her family) — who has been working behind the scenes at the festival since 1979 — feel?

One word: “Hallelujah!” she said. “Everybody missed it,” even if she’s proud to be a part of a team that had to “figure out how to have live music in a pandemic and keep it safe.”

Festivalgoers can learn more information on all the Bluegrass fun at the festivals website right here.

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