MANCHESTER — After two years of frustrating pandemic-enforced exile, the Green Mountain Bluegrass & Roots Festival is returning to Manchester’s Hunter Park Aug. 19 to 21 with some familiar faces, and some new surprises.
“John and I wanted to come back super strong and really make it impactful,” Jill Turpin said of the planning she and her husband, John Turpin, have put into the twice-delayed third edition of the festival. “We are giddy with excitement over the full lineup.”
The festival, which had two years under its belt when it had to take 2020 and 2021 off due to COVID-19, announced much of its lineup on Tuesday. Headliners include the Grammy award-winning Punch Brothers, and Watchhouse — the duo formerly known as Mandolin Orange.
That said, the festival is still in the process of lining up performers, and Turpin said there’s a significant addition she’s still working on.
“There’s so much more to this lineup that I can’t talk about right now. That is hopefully tantalizing enough,” she said.
Punch Brothers are among artists who have helped spread bluegrass to new generations of listeners, Turpin said. “They’re so steeped in the genre’s history, and they take those deep roots and expand on them and create something new that’s creative and amazing,” she said.
Watchhouse is returning for a third time to the festival. “They are very near and dear to our hearts. Every time we see them, they give us something different,” Turpin said.
With the future of COVID still uncertain, the festival is re-arranging its layout and limiting attendance to assure public health, while remaining “cautiously optimistic,” Turpin said.
“We trust Vermont and how it has been handling this,” she said. “We’re making adjustments to the festival to be extra-safe COVID-wise, in the event it’s still with us. We’re optimistic but we know we can adjust. Our eye is still on the prize of keeping everyone safe and producing a really first-class event.”
One thing that’s not changing is the late-night Lamplighter Stage, which allows the assembled musicians to play together in one-of-a-kind collaborations that won’t be heard or seen anywhere else.
Fostering and celebrating the genre’s tight-knit sense of community remains the festival’s overarching goal, Turpin said.
“We’re an intimate festival experience. We want everyone to feel like they’re at a wedding for their best friend,” she said. “It’s neat that way.”
In a new twist, bluegrass veterans Leftover Salmon — now in their 33rd year — will offer two sets: one acoustic, and one electric. They’re among the couple’s personal favorites.
“John and I remember seeing them when we were 20 years old,” Jill Turpin said. “The fact that they’re still at it is so incredible.”
The electric set is a first for the festival. “That’s a little bit different, but super cool to us,” Turpin said. “It’s two distinct sets by one artist and they deliver on both in such a cool way. … They suggested it to us and we’re thrilled by that.”
Also among performers scheduled to appear are Hawktail, fiddle virtuoso Christian Sedelmyer, and a pair of local favorites: Saints and Liars, and Carling and Will.
Bella White, who’s scheduled for a sold-out show at The Coffee Bar in Bennington on March 5, is also on the bill, as are the Jacob Jolliff Band, the Caleb Klauder Country Band, and Twisted Pine.
“We love her — I think she’s just amazing,” Turpin said of White, who has also performed locally as part of the Billsville concert series. “Just the fact she will have played (in Bennington County) twice, we’re so excited to put someone on the bill people have seen before live.”