For those of us who have sampled the annual Appalachian and Bluegrass Music Festival, the first weekend of September is the time of year when our hands feel inclined to clap, our feet to tap, our faces to smile and our hearts to race with excitement.
For those yet to sample the inspirational performances on stage and throughout the park, this is a weekend of delights in store. For few festivals showcasing modern musical genres are as familiar to our soul and yet as challenging to our perceptions of the rich and vibrant musical legacy that is evoked and honoured here in the Ulster American Folk Park.
Year after year, the Appalachian and Bluegrass Music Festival brings together some of the most accomplished and exciting acts in Bluegrass and Roots Country music. To attend a performance in their homeland of even one of the featured bands from the USA would be the highlight of any trans-Atlantic holiday. Yet here in Omagh they mingle with the masses and make music in the hugely atmospheric, yet informal setting of the Ulster American Folk Park.
They do so in the company of other performers from Ireland and elsewhere in Europe who show clearly that this music is a living and evolving expression of down home values that bring joy and inspiration to a world wracked by economic woes and darkened by moral doubts.
This weekend is a welcome haven of simple yet proven certainties firmly rooted in the rich grassy plains of Kentucky, reaching to the heavenly heights of Appalachia and coursing along the lonesome trails forged and followed by generations who departed these shores in hope of happiness. The music being performed here is grounded in common sense, family and faith, yet above all, it is played with fun and should be heard with pleasure.
So whether you are returning with relish or a first-time visitor, enjoy the 18th Annual Appalachian and Bluegrass Music Festival and feast on the pleasures it brings.