Where can you see a Grammy-nominated band and a blacksmith up close, at the same event?
The Woodstock Square’s annual fall celebration, of course.
Harvest Fest and its partner festival, Fair in the Square, will return from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17.
Headlining Harvest Fest this year will be bluegrass group The Special Consensus. The Chicago-based band released their first album in 1979, and received a Grammy nomination in 2012 for their album, Scratch Gravel Road. The four-man group of Greg Cahill, Rick Faris, Dan Eubanks and Nick Dumas perform their “bluegrass with an attitude” music almost weekly all over the country.
The band has performed at the Woodstock Opera House in the past, but this year is their debut at Harvest Fest.
Off Square Music, a local nonprofit group that promotes acoustic music performance in McHenry County, is the driving force behind Harvest Fest.
The rest of the bluegrass music on the bandstand in the Square will be provided by Chicken Wire Empire, from Milwaukee; and Anderlik, Otto and Church, from Chicago. Local performers will take the stage from 10 a.m., when Harvest Fest opens, until 1 p.m., when the bluegrass bands will begin.
“All of our bands are strong. If you like bluegrass music, all three of our bands are strong, and they have great names, like Chicken Wire Empire,” said Keith Johnson, president of Off Square Music.
Johnson said the city gives Off Square Music a lot of support with the event. Woodstock Opera House Managing director John Scharres will return to Harvest Fest with pumpkin carving in front of the Opera House.
The Fair in the Square craft show, featuring handmade items by crafters from throughout the Midwest, and several vendors from the Woodstock Farmer’s Market are always well-attended highlights of Harvest Fest. Vendors are asked to sell products they have had a role in crafting, rather than reselling merchandise.
“You can ask the craftsman how it’s made,” Johnson said.
But there’s more to take in than just music and crafts.
A working blacksmith will demonstrate the use of a forge. Antique tractors and machinery from local farms will be on display — always a hit for all ages, Johnson said.
“If you went to see a farm today, you’re seeing huge pieces of machinery. This goes back to the time before World War II,” Johnson said.
It’s all a world of wonder — especially for a typical suburban family — a glimpse back to a period of when the pace of life was different than what modern society is used to.
Johnson said a lot of local families attend the fest, and bluegrass fans come from near and far just to enjoy the music.
Harvest Fest, now in its 22nd year, will be held rain or shine. The suggested donation for the music events in the Park in the Square is $10. In the event of rain, the music will move indoors to the Opera House, 121 W. Van Buren St.
“It’s a combination of things, with music at the top. It is a step back in time. A celebration of Woodstock’s agricultural roots,” said Johnson.