The sun takes center stage at Get Off the Grid Fest

The sun takes center stage at Get Off the Grid Fest

August 15th, 2017 by Barry Courter in Life Entertainment

Strung Like a Horse from Chattanooga is one of several dozen bands set to play during the Get Off the Grid Fest in Blairsville, Ga., this weekend. The event is as much about renewable energy and resources as it is a music and arts festival.

Photo by Lauren Coakley

The Get Off the Grid Fest is not too different from many other festivals. There will be lots of food and fun, and there will be lots of booths and vendors and, of course, there will be live music. But this three-day event in Blairsville, Ga., this weekend actually focuses on a star of a different sort.

A huge star, in fact.

"We wanted to put the sun as the center of this," says founder Bill Fleming.

And, he says, the cosmos did them a big favor by having the Great American Eclipse the day after the festival. It will pass over Blairsville in the path of totality at 2:34:48 on Monday.

If you go

› What: Get Off the Grid Fest.

› When: Friday-Sunday, Aug. 18-20

› Where: Union County Arena, Blairsville, Ga.

› Admission: $30.

› Online:

It's an alignment of the Earth, moon and sun, and the festival is an alignment of many, many people — engineers, solar technicians, astronomers, musicians. It's a teaching moment, and the upcoming eclipse underscores the power of the sun and renewable energy.

Many of the bands, which include headliners Donna the Buffalo, Caroline Aiken, Copious Jones, Donna Hopkins, Delta Moon and Chattanooga favorites Strung Like a Horse, are doing sets filled with songs about the sun. And there will be workshops, speakers and exhibits focused on renewable energy, food and agriculture, health and wellness and the environment.

"Some of the bands have even written new songs about the sun for this," Fleming says. "It's a source of power and it gives us life-giving food."

Fleming says he and fellow staff have been working on plans for about 18 months, which gave them enough time to put out a CD of music, featuring works by many of the acts that will perform. The CD actually serves as an admission ticket as well.

The festival is being held in and around the Union County Arena. Fleming says that all of the power used for everything from powering the sound system to the lighting to the coolers keeping the beer and wine cold will come from solar power, weather permitting.

Fleming says he hopes to have about 5,000 people attend the festival and that most of the hotel and motel rooms in the area have been booked. Camping is not allowed on the grounds but will be allowed on nearby pieces of land.

The timing for the festival, in addition to being tied to the eclipse, is right because of the new interest in renewable energy.

"I've never seen anything like it," he says. "I liken it to the electrification of rural movement of the '30s. This is led by not the government but by the people."

He says prices for equipment are coming down, and people are relearning how to live off natural resources.

"They are learning, 'Hey, I can do this.' People are thirsty and hungry for information on how they can achieve independence."

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.