(EDITOR'S?NOTE: This article kicks off the Sun-Gazette's Music Festival Month coverage. For the month of June, the Showcase Nightlife will feature area music festivals each week.)
MILLMONT - Summer music festival "Jam Along the Creek" returns to Millmont June 8 through 10 and arrives aptly named as "Jam Along the Creek II." The festival will offer three days of music, art and camping to those looking to sneak away from their regular lives for a weekend.
The campground gates will open to festivalgoers at 10 a.m. Friday and over the next three days, 14 bands will take the stage, offering at least 12 hours of entertainment on Friday and Saturday, and an afternoon's worth on Sunday. Those bands include Williamsport regulars such as Lumpy Gravy, Mystery Train and the Backwoods Experiment, the latter of whom will play into the wee hours Saturday morning, closing the evening's entertainment at 3 a.m.
The band Splintered Sunshine will play at “Jam Along the Creek II.” The music festival will be held June 8 through 10 at the Sunsational Family Campground, 1120 Hoffman Lane, Millmont.
The music starts again at noon Saturday, with Lumpy Gravy opening for the festival's featured performers, Grateful Dead tribute band Splintered Sunshine at 7 p.m., with the Deadhead-loving musicians going on at 9 p.m.
Nestled along Penn Creek, festival host Sunsational Family Campground is about an hour from Williamsport. For festival organizer Ben Ehrsam, the campground itself is an attraction beyond the festival's music offerings.
"Sunsational Campground is just a beautiful campground," Ehrsam said. "I love being along Penn Creek. It has a half-mile stretch for kayaking, inner tubing, fishing. It's just a beautiful campground."
"Jam Along the Creek II" is less a sequel than a version 2.0. Ehrsam said that this year's festival is similar to last year's, but that "there's definitely a couple more upgrades in terms of what activities we're doing."
"Last year, this was just kind of a first run at this campground - this year we put a lot more into it," he added.
Those upgrades include kayak tours with These Guys' Kayak, as well as more inner tubes for the exploring the creek and more children's games on the playground. The festival also will offer fishing and swimming opportunities, and vegan and vegetarian food options. Craft vendors can sell their wares with the purchase of a weekend pass.
"Jam Along the Creek II" could be considered the low-key cousin of area event "A Bear's Picnic," which Ehrsam also organizes. But August's "A Bear's Picnic," which attracts more national-level talent, also comes with a higher ticket price. Ehrsam said that "Jam Along the Creek" aims to be much more accessible to families and music lovers who want an easy weekend away.
"It's more feasible," he said. "We wanted to create an event that was a little cheaper for everyone."
According to Ehrsam, last year's "Jam Along the Creek" brought more than 500 people to the campground, but this year, the festival's organizers expect closer to 700. Web traffic is signaling three times the level of interest, but ticket sales, for the moment, are similar to those of last year.
Ehrsam's Country Fried Entertainment represents several of the bands performing during the festival, including MiZ, Stackabones and Mystery Fyre. Ehrsam said he was excited for the musicians, different stylists all, to gain more area exposure.
"All these guys are just so talented, and there just hasn't been the proper (attention given) and no one's really shown them too much excitement over the past couple years," Ehrsam said. "I just want to help them out and get them where they really deserve to be. They're all excellent musicians."
Ehrsam said artists like Splintered Sunshine, and MiZ will bring unique flavor to the event, along with the bluegrass, americana, jam, rock and blues stylings of the festival's other performers. He expects another highlight to be the Muppets Titanium Stardust Machine, an improv band that takes a known album by artists such as the Beatles or Pink Floyd, and completely revamps it on the fly.
"They don't rehearse it, they just roll with it," Ehrsam said.
But for Ehrsam, the creek itself is the festival's greatest attraction. The chance to camp along Penn's Creek in the company of good people and good music is what Ehrsam most looks forward to.
"I really love the region and everything that's there," Ehrsam said. "The music's definitely great entertainment, but it's a nice groved area, it's got a lot of trees around the venue. It just makes for a really nice setting. Very peaceful."
"We're a customer- service style promotion company. We just want everyone to be happy and safe. We're trying to make everyone's time the best time of their life. And a safe time. And a responsible time, too," Ehrsam said.
With that in mind, the campground will have a designated "quiet" section for families with young children and campers looking to turn in early. Night owls can stay up for the extent of the performances, which run to 3 a.m. or later if they so desire.
Tickets are available at Old School Pizza in Williamsport or online. The event has both weekend and one-day ticket options.
For event details and information on ticket options, visit www.jamalongthecreek.com.