HemlockFest is one of those things that rejects easy categorization. It’s not just a festival, many of its frequent attendees consider it an experience – and rightly so. HemlockFest is packed with things to see, hear, and do. It’s almost enough to overwhelm the senses, and yet within the constant sensory stimulation one can find a deep feeling of joyful calm.
Perhaps this writer should start by talking about what HemlockFest is before getting too esoteric. HemlockFest is an annual three-day festival and the primary vehicle for the Lumpkin Coalition to raise awareness and funds for the preservation and safeguarding of Georgia’s hemlock trees through support of predator beetle rearing labs. These predator beetles naturally feed on the invasive and parasitic hemlock woolly adelgid which has been killing hemlocks at alarming rates. Since 2016, HemlockFest also supports the restoration of the American Chestnut tree to its former glory.
HemlockFest’s biggest draw is probably its outstanding music lineup. The festival features three chock-full days of lesser-known musicians and bands of all different genres from across the Southeast, but don’t mistake “lesser-known” for “lesser-talented” – attendees rave about the music year after year.
Even so, don’t come to HemlockFest just to hear the music. The vendors at HemlockFest are a breed all their own, carrying unique and handmade art or unique food and drink. Local beers and wines (maybe some with the new Dahlonega Plateau AVA!) are available for attendees over 21.
Countless festival-goers attest to HemlockFest’s child-friendly environment, and not in the “throw them in the ball pit while the grownups do their thing” way. For the more independent children, HemlockFest features a dedicated kid’s nature village, while those who would rather stay with Mom and Dad can share such experiences as guided nature walks, live storytelling, educational exhibits, free canoeing, and rustic living demonstrations.
Even the venue itself is something to behold. It takes place at Starbridge Retreat, a 50-acre private resort nestled in the Appalachian foothills just a few miles away from Dahlonega proper. It features several acres of primitive camping, a shower house, a 5-acre pond, and a lighted stage. Sound for HemlockFest is powered with clean energy sources.
Purchase a one-day pass, two-day pass, or three-day camping pass here. Children under 15 are free with parents or guardian, and dogs are welcome with a Pooch Pass (one per dog).
HemlockFest brings out the best of people from across the Southeast, if not the country. Hundreds, if not thousands, of festival-goers come together for a common goal to share an altogether uncommon experience. For many, it has become a pilgrimage. If there’s one thing that’s abundantly clear, it’s that HemlockFest is good for the soul.