“I guess we do it because we enjoy it,” Hardy said. “We certainly don’t make money at it.”
The Raccoon Creek Bluegrass Festival is set for more than 12 hours on Friday and Saturday at the event’s amphitheater off Braswell Mountain Road in north Paulding. Nine bands are scheduled to perform, beginning with Barbwire Bluegrass Friday at 6:30 p.m.
The headlining band is Volume Five, which had a national No. 1 bluegrass hit with “Rich Man’s Daughter.” Numerous other songs from its CD “Run” appeared on the charts in 2013. Its new CD is a gospel-based collection titled “The Day We Learn to Fly.”
Raccoon Creek has been a family organized event from the start. Hardy’s in-laws, Wylie and Annette Rakestraw, organized the first festival in 1974 with assistance from Ms. Hardy and her brother, Rickey Rakestraw. Hardy got more heavily involved about a decade ago, he said.
The Hardys and Rickey Rakestraw now organize and operate the July event, as well as an April bluegrass concert to benefit the Cousins for a Cure team in the annual Paulding Relay for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.
“We’re just carrying on a tradition,” Hardy said.
Raccoon Creek likely is the longest continually running, annual public event in Paulding County, Hardy said. It also is the second-oldest bluegrass festival in Georgia behind the Armuchee Labor Day Bluegrass Festival, he said.
The festival site sits atop family owned land about seven miles north of Dallas and includes a 350-seat covered amphitheater built on a natural slope.
It also offers RV hookups and those attendees taking advantage of the hookups typically begin arriving Thursday night. Impromptu musical jams are the norm among campers, Hardy said.
Depending on the weather, Hardy said average attendance has been around 500 – not a large number for a rock or country festival but respectable in bluegrass circles. Those numbers work well for a family run operation like Raccoon Creek, Hardy said.
“We don’t have a large crowd but we don’t want a huge crowd,” he said.
Most of the bands are from the Southeast, and include Florida-based Trinity River Band. However, local groups also add their music to the mix, including Paulding-based gospel-bluegrass group Heartfelt Grass which has performed at numerous festivals.
“They’ve always been popular,” Hardy said.
And though bluegrass attracts a smaller pool of listeners than other string-based music genres like country, Hardy said they have given little thought to booking more commercially viable names.
“Back through the years, we’ve had some country bands,” he said. ‘[Bluegrass] is just what we’ve always done.”