George Bright says that decisions in his family don't usually take much time to make. Even when it involves something as big as staging a multi-act, multi-day bluegrass festival that is free to the public. Bright got the idea after seeing an article in a bluegrass magazine sent to him by his father, the late Fletcher Bright, about a free festival in Lexington, Kentucky.
"I've always been evangelical about bluegrass and I'd promoted music with Bruce Kaplan at Barking Legs for awhile, and the [Fletcher Bright] company was sponsoring Nightfall, so I called Carla [Pritchard at Chattanooga Present, which produces Nightfall] and said, 'Hey, if we throw a free festival down on the river, would you be involved?' She said, 'Sure.'
"So I walked down the hall into Dad's office and told him I had an idea on how we could throw a free bluegrass festival. The whole thing took about 90 seconds."
That was 12 years ago, and the 2018 version of the 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival is this weekend. It features nearly a dozen acts including headliners Infamous Stringdusters.
Deciding on a name for the festival took a little bit longer to decide, sort of, Bright says.
"We called it 3 Sisters on a lark. We couldn't think of a name, so my sister Lizzer said, 'Why not name it after us?' and that has turned out to be fun."
He says Lizzer and sisters Ann and Lucy now help with marketing, designing T-shirts and posters, and with the hospitality and vendor coordination.
"They've really gotten involved and it's been a real family thing."
This year's festival will feature a 3 Sisters IPA craft beer by Heaven & Ale just for the event.
"That will be fun," Bright says.
Fletcher Bright died in December and leaves behind a legacy of philanthropy in the arts community in general and the bluegrass community in particular. He co-founded The Dismembered Tennesseans in the 1940s while a student at McCallie School and performed with it for more than seven decades.
Bright says the family will honor him in their own way since, "If he thought we would come up on stage and talk about him, he would cringe."
For Bright, the best part of the festival has been meeting people from all over the country who have traveled to Chattanooga to hear a variety of bluegrass music and perhaps discover a new favorite act or style.
"I love that the purists might hear some progressive music and like it, and the younger people who might like progressive music will hear some traditional music."
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.
If you go
› What: 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival
› Where: Ross’s Landing, 201 Riverfront Parkway
› When: Artists start 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5; noon Saturday, Oct. 6
› Admission: Free
› For more information: www.3sistersbluegrass.com
6 p.m.The New Dismembered Tennesseans
6:50 p.m. Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper
8:10 p.m. Della Mae
9:30 p.m. The Infamous Stringdusters
Noon. Mountain Cove Bluegrass Band
1 p.m. Circus No. 9
2:10 p.m. Berklee College of Music Fiddlers
3:15 p.m. Bill Evans and Dan Crary
4:20 p.m. The Crowe Brothers
7 p.m. Picking Party with The Gibson Brothers, Sierra Hull, Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley
8:30 p.m. Noam Pikelny, Stuart Duncan and Friends