By Kenneth MacMillan
The 2018 Gandy Dancer Festival occurred less than 48 hours before the devastating flooding that occurred in Mazomanie, Black Earth, Cross Plains and many other local communities. The public is invited to join us this Aug. 17, nearly one year to the day, for the 2019 Gandy Dancer Festival. We’re excited to show how our community has pulled together, and kept our spirits up, in this one-of-a-kind festival.
For those unfamiliar, a Gandy dancer is a slang term used for early railroad workers, and with Mazomanie established as a railway village, this festival is a way to celebrate our heritage, and highlight what makes our village special. Our festival features a rich variety of free family and children activities, and an all-age main stage ($10 in advance, $15 day of) with some of the best local, regional and national names in bluegrass, Americana and folk music.
Free activities for kids and families include: mini train rides sponsored by the Cross Plains Lion’s club, model trains from the S-Gauge WI club, Dan Capps bug and insect exhibit, craft activities, Mazomanie Historical Society, Micro Car museum, bluegrass jam session with Barefoot Hollow, train song sing-along and more!
We’re ecstatic about the diverse variety of bluegrass, Americana and folk music bands we have lined up this year. Headliners are none other than Milwaukee’s own Chicken Wire Empire (6:30 p.m. start). The GDF is fortunate to bring these rising stars of bluegrass to Mazomanie. Their mix of progressive and traditional bluegrass music will for sure be a crowd pleaser.
Warming up the crowd and the stage for them will be 2018 GDF favorite, The Kevin Prater Band (recognized by the Kentucky House of Representatives for their traditional bluegrass music). Preceding them will be the High 48s from Minnesota. We’re pleased to have the High 48s return to Mazomanie after their last performance at the GDF in 2014. Their railway music catalog is second to none! Before them will be Nashville’s Williamson Branch. Making their first tour in Wisconsin, this family group sings harmonies only years of living together could produce. Plus, their world-class Appalachian clog dancing will bring something special and new to our festival.
Another GDF veteran gracing the stage will be Art Stevenson & High Water — verified Wisconsin bluegrass legends. You can’t think of bluegrass in Wisconsin without thinking of them. Starting out the day at 11 a.m. will be Best of Madison-Bronze Bluegrass/Folk winners, No Name String Band. This feet-in-the-grass, traditional Americana group is the perfect way to kick off the GDF.
Join us for a day in Mazomanie you won’t forget!
Kenneth MacMillan is the Gandy Dancer Festival creative director. For more information, find the festival on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) or at gandydancerfestival.org.