“I do not like the raw sound of the human voice in unison unless it is under the discipline of music,” wrote Flannery O’Connor, one of the 20th century’s most celebrated American writers. She would be pleased to know that her final home, Andalusia Farm in Milledgeville, is being used for just that – to host an annual music festival right in her own backyard.
Each year, this outdoor festival features folksy melodies and harmonies belted out amidst the backdrop of guitars, banjos, fiddles, bass, keyboards, and drums, all performed by up-and-coming southern bluegrass musicians beneath the canopy of O’Connor’s towering oak and pecan trees.
“Like so many other historical sites, there is a need to provide a variety of ways to encourage the enjoyment of Andalusia Farm and foster community there,” says April Moon Carlson, assistant director at Andalusia. “This is the place that inspired Flannery herself, so it’s a great opportunity for us to showcase the farm and invite the local community, and a host of people from out of state as well, to come out and spend the day.”
Last year, the festival drew more than 500 people to hear headliners The Honeycutters, based in Asheville, N.C., Good Country People (named after one of O’Connor’s short stories) from Macon, and Milledgeville’s own, Heart Pine.
But the audience is not a mere spectator at Andalusia’s Bluegrass Festival. Attendees showed up with their own instruments for an impromptu “Porch Pickin’” jam session, where off-the-cuff acoustics are offered between strangers to make beautifully blended, spontaneous music together.
Every year, the festival is an eclectic mix of people, drawing both young and old, families and college students, country folks and hipsters – all of whom become captivated by the melodious live music, picturesque scenery, and historic tribute to one of the region’s most beloved authors.
“We really hope that Andalusia inspires others the way it inspired Flannery. Each year, this festival draws so many photographers, writers, and musicians – they are moved by the countryside out here and by Flannery’s legacy,” says Carlson.
Don’t miss out on the chance to partake in the upcoming 12th Annual Bluegrass Festival at Andalusia slated for Saturday, Nov. 5. This year’s festival will feature Packway Handle Band, out of Athens, as the event’s headliners, who will take the stage at 7 p.m. The group performed at Andalusia back in 2014, missing last year’s festival because they were on tour with Kid Rock. “We are really looking forward to having them back. They have been reviewed as one of the top bluegrass bands around,” says Carlson.
The festival will also bring back Good Country People, who will perform folk-favorites and originals at 5 p.m. First-timers to the festival, The Skillet Lickers, a popular local band, will also perform at 6 p.m.
The grounds of Andalusia Farm will open at 10 a.m. for early birds wanting to explore the property. The festivities will begin with guided nature walks at 3 p.m. and “Porch Pickin’” from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Attendees are invited to bring picnic baskets, blankets, and chairs for the lawn seating and leashed pets are welcomed. There will be local food and drink vendors on site. Andalusia Farm is located at 2628 N. Columbia Street in Milledgeville. According to the website, GPS devices may not accurately guide visitors to the site. For directions, and more information on events, visit www.andalusiafarm.org.
“Last year, even with the scattered rain, we drew almost 600 people. This year, we are hoping to have between 600 and 1,000. We just want to keep on growing and giving more people the opportunity to discover this wonderful place,” says Carlson.
Written and photographed by Tia Lynn Ivey