For a full decade now, every Memorial Day Weekend the Allegany County Fairgrounds of Cumberland, Maryland transform into a home for some of the nation’s most prominent bluegrass acts. Nestled beneath the towering cliffs of Knobley Mountain and alongside the Potomac River, the 10th annual DelFest brings together distinguished names from the bluegrass tradition and everything beyond, in a unique, family-oriented atmosphere.
This year’s event will host acts such as Trey Anastasio Band, Gov’t Mule, Bela Fleck & Chris Thile, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Hot Rize, The Infamous Stringdusters, Steep Canyon Rangers and many more returning and new guests; while of course, the hosting McCoury Family will perform multiple sets as Del McCoury Band and Travelin’ McCourys throughout the weekend, the latter featuring an appearance by special guest Dierks Bentley.
In addition, artists at large for the weekend are some of the bluegrass scene’s best-known prodigies: Sierra Hull, Billy Strings and Bryan Sutton, which gives a promising outlook for collaboration and unique performances throughout the weekend.
Other perks to DelFest include floating on the Potomac River amidst the striking beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, some of the best food truck meals, yoga classes, and a kidzone for the little ones. For those not wishing to camp, Cumberland’s charming downtown plays host with multiple hotel options and other day-time activities, including a steam train engine museum.
Looking around the festival in past years, it’s easy to see that many have adapted DelFest as a yearly tradition. One thing that I noticed last year was that most people were aware that the parking area is a mild hike from the camping area, and came equipped with wagons to help transport their belongings. Other swimmers tote inner tubes, floating mats and sunscreen to enjoy the river. Many families come together with their friends, which seems like a great sort of reunion for the Memorial Day Weekend, with ample space for children to run about.
This year’s late night shows include Cabinet and Fruition on Thursday, Steep Canyon Rangers with Donna the Buffalo on Friday, Leftover Salmon and Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers (Hot Rize’s alter ego) on Saturday and finally, The Grateful Ball featuring Travelin’ McCourys with the Jeff Austin Band, and Billy Strings to close out the weekend on Sunday night. The late-night shows always sell out, so if you want to see some of the best after-hours programming of the year, purchasing advance tickets is encouraged!
DelFest has an atmosphere that feels warm, safe, and most of all, like home. At it’s core this is a reunion, made possible by the McCourys’ enthusiastic fan-base, and their extended family of the most passionate players in bluegrass, and beyond.
Written by Karina Verlan
Photo by Tilt At Wyndmills Photography