Upfront: Canoegrass

Canoegrass combines camping and floating on the river with some great bluegrass music.

By Niala Wagstaff

Michelle Moreaux plans to attend her fifth Canoegrass event this year. “It’s so much more than a music festival,” she says. “It’s the camaraderie of the people that you meet, a judge-free zone where everyone is having a great time and letting loose. It’s just a very relaxed and fun-filled weekend,” says Moreaux. 

That fun-filled weekend was started by wildlife enthusiast Tom Helbig in 2013. “I had a vision where everyone was playing on the river and listening to some bluegrass with a rope swing, slip-n-slide and tubes all available,” he says. Helbig has done just that with this beloved Dayton music festival now going into its fifth year. Helbig’s vision has brought an entire new take on experiencing the sounds of bluegrass music and wildlife.

Many Canoegrass attendees find it easy to simply turn off their electronics, let go of worries from their everyday life and just enjoy the company and atmosphere. Moreaux says there are unique experiences that continue to bring her back every year. “One of my favorite things, after all the bands are done, at night there is a huge bonfire in the middle of the campground where everybody who has brought instruments simply plays music together. It’s just phenomenal,” she says. 

Those who attend Canoegrass can find bluegrass music just about everywhere—at the campground, on a river trip and even on a floating stage in the river. Activities also include canoe jousting—pitting two canoes and their participants in a friendly battle to see who can be the last one standing—and much more. 

But it’s the ability to jam and have fun all weekend all while relaxing on the river that draws attendees and musicians alike. Jen Goldsberry’s band, The Goldsberrys, has played at Canoegrass for two years. It’s a special event, she says. “This festival spirit of community lifts up everyone, it leaves you feeling good about life,” says Goldsberry.

Helbig truly lives by his mantra: “Live active, laugh more, inspire all” whether he is hiking, biking or canoeing. Canoegrass is more than just a music festival—it’s a way for him to help others live by his mantra as well. “My goals for Canoegrass have nothing to do with how many people show up,” he says. “I want it to feel like a family reunion for everyone to enjoy one another and miss them when they leave.”

So bring your own instrument, kayak, canoe and tent and listen to bluegrass music while enjoying fellow members of the paddling community Aug. 3-5 at Adventures on the Great Miami, 1995 Ross Road, in Tipp City. With Canoegrass you’re guaranteed to walk away with a one-of-a-kind experience.

Tickets can be bought online at canoegrass.com. Ticket prices are $100 at the gate. Tickets are non-refundable and only weekend passes are available. 

Those who ride their bicycles and camp at the festival will receive $30 back on festival admission. Canoe and kayak rentals are available.

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