Westminster, Maryland’s Common Ground on the Hill [classic article]

Blue because you don’t have the gas money for Coachella, South by Southwest, Bonnaroo or even All Good? No worries. Right in Westminster, Maryland is Common Ground on the Hill, a series of arts fests and programs based at McDaniel College and whose signature event is at the Carroll County Farm Museum. Such legends as Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Ritchie Havens, Odetta, and this year, Grammy-winning Buckwheat Zydeco have performed.

For 17 years, folks have gathered as a multicultural community of musicians, artists, writers, lecturers, actors, and dancers of all ages. The goal is to “improve ourselves, our communities and our world as we meet, share and celebrate our arts and cultures on common ground.”

The main festival is one of the Mid-Atlantic’s secrets: the grounds are spacious, local crafters sell wares, and local delicacies – including vegan options – are available at the food vendors. It’s not a funnel cake kind of event. There are lots of shady areas to spread blankets and simply chill. Sometimes, there are demonstrations taking place in the historic buildings.

Several concerts take place simultaneously, giving people to sample all kinds of musical genres. Some are solo acoustic, some folk music from around the world, some are American roots. The acts are far enough apart so that the sounds don’t bleed over, but not so far away as to be a chore to walk to. Not only will you be able to watch A-listers in a fun atmosphere and a reasonable price (in the $20 range), but you’ll discover under the radar great musicians as The Burns Sisters, as well as Calvin and Grace Cooke.

Common Ground on the Hill also joins with the D.C. Bluegrass Union to present a week of instrumental, band and vocal classes taught by some of Washington’s best performers and teachers, along with the occasional celeb musician. They welcome beginning to advanced players of all ages for a week of learning, jamming, singing, concerts and bluegrass/oldtime camaraderie. Classes include a Clog-a-thon, hammered dulcimer, Carter Family duets, Northern fiddle, Recording Your Music and much more.

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