Bluegrass festival to heat up Haliburton winter

In the depth of Haliburton winter the sweet sounds of bluegrass music will be heard drifting across hills of snow and over icy lakes emanating from Pinestone Resort host venue for Bluegrass in the Highlands Winter Festival Friday Feb. 24 and Saturday Feb. 25.

Organizers Lynda Weir Sue Gallant and Dennis Casey – all lovers of the country subgenre born in the American Appalachians – imagined a gathering during a season when very little bluegrass is happening in Ontario.

“It started with a selfish motivation” Gallant says: the organizers simply wanted to hear more bluegrass. Gallant and Weir are regular attendees of the River Valley festival and over the years had gotten to know many bluegrass groups. They started travelling to other events and then got to thinking about a large period of the year when there is no five-string banjo to be heard.

The last event of the year – the Central Canadian Bluegrass Awards – is at Deerhurst in November.

Casey is one of the main organizers of the Minden Hills Bluegrass Festival which takes place at the fairgrounds in the summer.

It took little persuasion to get groups on board Weir says. They simply put out a request and the response was positive. Hard Ryde Winter Line Davis and Grant Sweetgrass Jim Hayward and Willowridge the Tebworth Brothers Northland Ramblers and The Benttree Bluegrass Band all agreed to join in. Pinestone was similarly enthusiastic for the opportunity which takes place after many of the key Haliburton Highlands events.

The organizers envision a relaxed atmosphere with bands playing in the ballroom of the Pinestone and other groups turning the resort into a musical meeting place where they can improvise on the resort’s lobby piano or “pick and play” in the many alcoves throughout the property.

The committee is hoping the local community will embrace the festival by buying tickets and that businesses will support the endeavour for its economic development potential by becoming sponsors.

“Locals could come for Friday night where there will be six bands for $35” Weir says. Weekend passes (Friday and Saturday) are $70 in advance $75 at the door. Saturday only is $45 Saturday evening only is $40. Sponsorships range from “silver” level at $500 to “friends” level at $100 with various perks and incentives.

The committee isn’t looking to make money on the festival – they’d just like to break even.

“It’s a shoestring budget with no shoestring” laughs Weir.

Weir points out that attendees of the event likely won’t stay on the resort property for both days and will be given grab bags with tourism information.

“They’re not going to be listening to music the whole time” she says; they might want to rent a snowmobile take a trip to Timmy’s or head up to the Wolf Centre.

For those who have never heard bluegrass music searching the bands’ names on YouTube will produce many examples.

“No matter how sad the words are you can’t help but tap your foot” says Weir. “I’m in awe of them when I hear them.”

For more information about the Bluegrass in the Highlands Winter Festival (Friday Feb. 24 and Saturday Feb. 25) call Gallant at 705-457-3604; Weir at 705-447-2348/705-935-1105; or email If you book before Dec. 24 your name will be entered in a draw to have the costs of accommodation and weekend pass waived.