NORTH ADAMS -- A wide range of talent and musicians drew more than 4,000 fans to Mass MoCA this weekend for the FreshGrass Bluegrass and Roots Music Festival, making the festival's third year the most successful yet despite Saturday's rain and Sunday's cooler weather.
"This is such a great experience for the museum," Mass MoCA Director of Communications Jodi Joseph said Sunday.
Joseph estimated that between musicians, attendees and staff, FreshGrass drew more than 4,000 people to the city over the course of the weekend.
Bluegrass fans of all ages came from across the Northeast and beyond to see their favorite musicians, attend music workshops and jam with fellow enthusiasts in an atmosphere many attendees found welcoming.
"The gamut of ages here, from children to 70-year-olds, is special to me. It seems so poignant," 31-year-old Bill Braun, of Westport, said Sunday. Braun is a musician himself and was impressed by the crowd FreshGrass attracted. "This festival, more than others I've been to, has more musicians in the crowd. It seems like 50 percent are players."
The festival featured a lineup of 27 musicians playing on three stages over the course of the weekend, and included some of the most recognizable artists in bluegrass, roots music and Americana today.
"What more could you ask for? Good tunes, the lineup is fantastic and the tickets are cheap," said Steve Bortz, of Covington, Penn., on Saturday. Bortz journeyed from Pennsylvania to attend all three days of the festival. This was his second year at FreshGrass and he plans on returning next year.
The artwork in the galleries also impressed the 31-year-old.
"The museum; man, I've never seen anything like it," Bortz said.
Not all attendees traveled great distances to get to the festival. Many in the crowd came from nearby towns in New York or Vermont, or even from within walking distance.
"I'm extraordinarily happy to have this awesome music festival in my backyard," Noah Bogoff, a 27-year-old resident of North Adams, said Saturday night. Like Braun, Bogoff is a musician and plays piano and mandolin.
He was also impressed by the lineup and plans on returning next year.
"The talent just keeps increasing each year," he said. "I think we're seeing some of the highlight musicians of our time in this genre of music."
The musicians themselves seemed pleased with the festival and the unique opportunity it provided.
"This festival is great," musician Allison Brown said after her Saturday evening set. "I think that it's just a wonderful big-tent approach to a roots music festival. I couldn't be happier that I got to be a part of it."
Even though the Nashville, Tenn.-based musician is a co-founder of Compass records and a 20-year veteran of the bluegrass scene, she was still impressed by her experience playing with other performers Saturday.
"Getting to play with Mike Marshall and Darol Angor, that was real special for me," Brown said.
According Joseph, attendance was double last year's festival. By noon on Sunday, the museum had sold 3,500 tickets to the festival. Joseph estimated that by the end of the day, the number would climb to 4,000. The first time the museum held FreshGrass, it drew a crowd of about 500, according to Joseph.
"We have a good formula," she said. "We don't have any new plans for next year, but we always want to grow."
One part of that formula is the more than 100 volunteers who assist museum staff during the event.
The volunteers checked in attendees, assisted sound engineers and helped guide patrons around the museum campus, among many other tasks.
"This is a great atmosphere, and I don't have to pay for a ticket," said 21-year-old second-year volunteer Christopher Curdola Hantman, a senior at MCLA originally from Franklin.
New to the festival this year was Mason Jar Music, a New York City based audio/video production company whose team shot footage of the many performances, uploading the videos to YouTube several hours later.
They also filmed videos of several musicians in some of the museum's vacant spaces.
"What they've done for promoting the festival is great," said Joseph. "They've been a great festival partner."