BY GEORGE MARATOS

HAINES JUNCTION

Dancing on the grass under the big tent at Alsek and then racing across town in hopes of scoring a seat in the church at Bluegrass.

This has been a common scenario for many music lovers in Haines Junction over the years: schedule juggling in hopes of cramming as much of each festival in as possible.

This year, however, that won’t be required as a scheduling mix-up has resulted in the festivals now being held on separate weekends.

The Alsek Music Festival, featuring some of the north’s most recognized music acts, will kick things off June 6 to 8 with the Kluane Mountain Bluegrass Festival going the weekend after.

“It’ll be different for sure this year,” explains Bob Hayes, president and artistic director for the bluegrass event. “It was a really good partnership we had, so we’ll have to see how this year goes.”

Hayes recognizes not having the ability to share fans of both festivals is an obvious blow but notes it’s allowed him to offer more music options to the bluegrass music lovers.

“Our festival goers are going to be able to watch music all day Saturday at both the Grand Hall and St. Christopher’s Anglican Church so that’s a definite bonus,” said Hayes, noting the bluegrass festival is already sold out as has been the case year after year.

Look at the names gracing the stage at this year’s bluegrass festival and it is easy to understand the popularity as they are among the most recognized in the bluegrass world. This includes Michael Cleveland and the Flamekeeper, winners of the 2007 Instrumental Group of the Year.

Add to the mix Female Vocalist of the Year Dale Ann Bradley and it is safe to say the Kluane Mountain Bluegrass Festival is among North America’s most impressive.

“We have an incredible group of volunteers and we have very high standards from the hospitality to the music,” explains the soft-spoken Hayes when asked what the secret to his success is. “It’s also a word-of-mouth kind of business in the bluegrass world and fortunately we have a great reputation.”

Hayes says the relaxed and friendly environment is also an easy sell to the world-class musicians.

“They get wrapped up in the special aspects of this festival and it really is like a holiday for them. They’re treated like royalty for three days and they get the chance to become part of the community.”

Not to be outdone, the Alsek Music Festival also boasts an impressive line-up of northern musicians including Kim Barlow, Dave Haddock and Brandon Isaak.

Alsek attendees also have the option of a beer garden, a complementary shuttle and a riverside stage making it a fair estimate to say the scheduling mix-up may actually be a blessing in disguise and a regular mistake in the future.

PHOTO COURTESY OF BOB HAYES