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Fifth Briar Patch fest largest yet

Attendees enjoy the festivities at a former Briar Patch music festival in Damascus.

Attendees enjoy the festivities at a former Briar Patch music festival in Damascus.

DAMASCUS, Ga. -- Organizers of the annual Briar Patch Music Festival, which will make its fifth appearance at its now permanent site here May 30-June 1, have been working steadily to establish the gathering as a regular part of music fans' plans.

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Photo by Casey Dixon

The group made a huge leap in that pursuit while planning for this year's festival when it was able to convince legendary avant-garde rocker Col. Bruce Hampton to headline Briar Patch '13.

"Except for the first year, when we really didn't know what to expect but had visions of 10,000 people showing up, we've been able to pretty much plan to do things as we've gone," event organizer Jeb Tabb said. "We raise the money ourselves, get our own sponsors, and we've steadily been building each year.

"We think that, now that we have a permanent stage and our attendance has grown each year, we have an opportunity to really grow this year. It's certainly the biggest the festival has ever been."

That's true of the number of bands playing over the three days of the festival -- currently at 20 -- and it's true of the caliber of artists that's signed on to be a part of this year's Briar Patch, located at 13810 Five Bridges Road. While local favorites The Bo Henry Band and Evan Barber & the Dead Gamblers have been a part of the festival from its genesis, the regional favorites -- both of whom had stellar shows at the Georgia Throwdown in October -- will get the additional star power of Col. Bruce and the American Aquarium this year.

"That's been the plan all along: To increase our attendance and bring on more sponsors so that we could have some bigger-name bands," said Tabb, who is a principal in the entertainment/business collective The 340 Group and is drummer for Barber and the Gamblers. "We think this will be a big year for the festival."

In addition to the aforementioned artists, others performing during Briar Patch '13 are Mama's Love, Betsy Kingston & the Crowns, Dr. Louis Sullivan, the Evergreen Family Band, the Claude Bell Project (featuring members of Bonnie Blue), the Ben Sutton Band, the Bibb City Ramblers, The Deadfields, Spong, One Too Many Mornings, Wainwright Applegate, Biggest Band in the Land, Rod Holt, Destiny Brown, Bubba Hall and Highback Rockers.

"Our goal is to grow as much as we can and still stay right here in Damascus, Georgia," Tabb said. "The people around here were a little concerned the first year of the festival, but they're cool now. We try to make things as safe as possible, and so far we haven't had any incidents."

A limited number of RV hook-ups for the festival have already sold out, but RV owners who utilize generators are welcome free of charge. Tent camping is also free.

Advance weekend passes, which are available at the Briar Patch website www.briarpatchpro.com and at 340 in Albany, are $30, a $10 savings from passes sold the day of the show. Day passes are $25 and will be available at the gate. There is no cooler fee.

Sponsors of this year's Briar Patch fest include SyncSouth, Back 40 Beer and Lee Connor.