On a mission to “help preserve and celebrate the history and culture of the Southern Appalachian Mountains,” Bear on the Square Mountain Festival in downtown Dahlonega, Georgia, is a top annual event for art lovers, culture enthusiasts, and history buffs. Walk around and listen to live storytelling, attend the opening auction, dance to bluegrass music, check out 100s of handmade goods, and participate in artsy workshops at this Bear on the Square festival!
For 2023, this annual FREE event in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia will celebrate its 25th anniversary on April 14-16, Friday through Sunday. Drawing roughly 50,000 visitors each year, Bear on the Square is one of the largest events in Dahlonega, second only to the Gold Rush Days Festival. You can even bring your doggies because this mountain festival is dog friendly!
When planning your next Blue Ridge vacation for spring, be sure to add Bear on the Square in Dahlonega to your list of things to do.
How It All Began
Once upon a springtime nearly 26 years ago (1996) in Dahlonega, Georgia, a mama black bear and her two adorable cubs wandered into the historic public square. Townsfolk grew curious and anxious as the bear family meandered the streets. Sensing the town’s unrest, the mama black bear and one cub hightailed it into the forest, but the other cub scurried fast up a sycamore tree in the town square instead!
After hanging on for a few hours, local Forest Service rangers coaxed the black bear cub down from the tree and ensured its safety back into the woods of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Shortly afterward, the Pender family and friends wanted to boost local businesses and celebrate Appalachian culture by throwing a town party, which eventually led to the Bear on the Square Mountain Festival — a celebration of Dahlonega’s bear family.
Today, loyal sponsors, Friends of Bear (annual festival attendees who make donations), and 100+ volunteers make this non-profit mountain festival possible year after year. All proceeds from the festival go directly to planning and preparing next year’s Bear on the Square. So, come on over to downtown Dahlonega’s public square this spring to support our beautiful Appalachian culture and community!
Harken to Storytelling
Continuing the Appalachian roots of oral tradition, storytelling at Bear on the Square in Dahlonega delights listeners with tales of Southern Appalachia and the original way of life in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Chattahoochee National Forest areas. Usually founded on moral lessons, education, building community, or simply entertainment, storytelling at this mountain festival is appropriate for all ages.
Expect lively performances from professional storytellers of Kuumba Storytellers of Georgia and The Southern Order of Storytellers!
Enjoy Live Music — Bring YOUR Instrument!
You’ll know the Bear on the Square Mountain Festival has begun when acoustic music plays on Friday evening. People gather from all over Lumpkin County and join in mini-performances throughout the historic public square every weekend. In fact, everyone is encouraged to bring along their own instrument to jam old-time music with new friends. Feel free to hop in and play anytime during the festival and remember to bring a chair!
Georgia’s live music culture is always a pleasure, and Bear on the Square wouldn’t be the same without it! Along with impromptu performances throughout the festival, main-stage musical performances will be on Saturday and Sunday. From country hits to bluegrass rhythms to Appalachian folk music — performed by nationally recognized musicians — every stage performance is free to enjoy!
Bill and the Belles Perform at Bear on the Square 2019
Bear on the Square in Dahlonega hosts the Moonlight Jam every year, usually from 7:30-9:30 p.m., to really get people in the Appalachian spirit. This event occurs in the Main Stage tent and invites YOU to play and sing along with the pros!
Sunday morning at Bear on the Square kicks off with a gospel jam to awaken the soul for the last day of this Dahlonega event. Local musicians gather on stage to play classic gospel tunes while you tap to the beat and sway as you please.
Want to bring your instrument to play but don’t want to lug it around the event all day? Place your instrument under the supervision of event workers at the Information Booth on the Square. Simply swap your instrument for a token and swap back when you’re itching to pick, toot, or strum on the square again! Pro tip: place a card with your name and phone number inside your instrument case for added security.
Visit the Artist Marketplace
Featuring 80+ creative booths, the juried Artist Marketplace is a fun area to check out traditional crafts and artistry from the region’s top artists and craftsmen in North Georgia. Set up around the historic public square; it’s a neat place to take a stroll at the mountain festival.
- Glass and metal decor
- Mixed media art
Can’t get enough of Appalachian creativity? Come back for the Dahlonega Arts & Wine Fest in May!
Entertain the Whole Family — Things to Do with Kids
Keeping the kiddos entertained at the family-friendly Bear on the Square event in Dahlonega is easy! This North Georgia mountain festival features panning for gold, balloons, face painting, henna tattoos, and caricature artists. Kids are welcome to play instruments at the Pick and Bow tent and free to join community dances in the square.
As fun souvenirs, there are handmade goods for kids, too — including wooden puzzles, thumb pianos, cigar box guitars, panjos (3-string instruments), felted toys, and stuffed animals!
Participate in FREE Workshops
If any arts at Bear on the Square in Dahlonega strike your fancy, consider jumping into a free-to-participate workshop to pick up a new skill or refresh an old passion. Most workshops revolve around music and dance, but some are directed at storytelling and Appalachian crafts. Bear on the Square workshops are usually split between Hancock Park and Woodrow’s Tent.
Types of Workshops
- Old-time mountain dance
- Ballad singing
- Penny whistling
- Bluegrass banjo
- Clawhammer banjo
- Old-time banjo
- Old-time fiddle
- Slow Bluegrass
- Irish music
- Appalachian/Irish crossover tunes
- Old-time songs
- History of Appalachian music and dance
Bid at the Country Auction
Kicking off Bear on the Square Mountain Festival in Dahlonega, GA, is the country auction — aka the fundraiser for the event! A silent and live auction will be held on Friday evening in the Main Stage tent before the weekend festivities. And there’s usually food from local restaurants, North Georgia wine, plus a featured band. Previously, a Bear on the Square auction dinner was catered by Shenanigans and Bourbon Street Grille!
Items for the auction include artworks from North Georgia folk artists and local creators and donations from local businesses and individuals. You can also preview the items online a few weeks before the live auction to prep your bids.
5:00 p.m. — Enjoy dinner and wine with the silent auction.
5:30 p.m. — View auction items while the band plays.
7:00 p.m. — Let the bidding begin at the live auction!
$5 per person — includes a bidding paddle and catered dinner
FREE for volunteers, artists, donors & sponsors
Wine & Dine at the Food Court & Bear’s Den
Plenty of food vendors will be dispersed throughout the Food Court in the historic public square. Look forward to a list of 2022 food vendors coming this March. Bear’s Den (across the street from the Main Stage tent) is also expected to be another hit this April — serving alcoholic beverages to those with a valid license. Sip on mountain moonshine, local wine, or apple cider and relax for a spell while listening to bluegrass jams!
April 15-16, 2023
FREE for all ages!
Bear on the Square Mountain Festival
1 Public Square
Dahlonega, GA 30533
The Historical Dahlonega Shuttle runs a golf cart from the UNG (University of North Georgia) public parking deck to the festival grounds for free. Handicap parking just off the public square also offers a free shuttle service.
Stay at a Mountain Cabin Rental
Return to your North Georgia cabin rental after singing, dancing, eating, and playing at Bear on the Square in Dahlonega. Georgia Cabins for YOU features cabins in the Blue Ridge Mountains that offer amenities to entertain, relax, and unwind after a fun day downtown.
Take in gorgeous mountain or river views, soak in the steamy hot tub, lounge on the deck with local moonshine, hang out in the game room, practice what you learned from Bear on the Square music workshops, and snooze in a king suite. You’ll also have homey conveniences like high speed Wi-Fi, a fully equipped kitchen, keyless entry, and big screen TVs to enjoy on your spring getaway!
Book YOUR memorable Blue Ridge vacation today and plan for a great time at Bear on the Square in nearby Dahlonega this spring!