A Letter From DelFest: DelFest 2024 Review - Festy GoNuts!
A Letter From DelFest: DelFest 2024 Review

A Letter From DelFest: DelFest 2024 Review

by Jun 5, 2024Featured, Reviews

The scene:

A nomad emerges from around the bend between hillsides, followed by their small caravan on foot.

We next see our hero at night, shrouded in a tent-like structure, putting ink to paper by the light of a candle…


A Letter From DelFest: A Traveler’s Account of Music and Merriment in DELTOPIA


Words by Carly Shields

Images from Nicholas J. Price Photography



DelFest 2024 | Nicholas J. Price for Festy GoNuts


May 23, 1824

Dearest family, 

I trust this letter finds you in good health and high spirits. This morning, after many a mile through the Great State of Maryland, we arrived in the settlement of Cumberland; a locale in which I yearned to rest, so we might make time to exchange goods.  But we came upon a tremendous sight that I must divulge to you forthwith.

We here on the trek westward are amazed and amused, having been welcomed into the local community calling themselves “The Deltopians,” residing along the banks of the river named Potomac. As it so happens, the villagers have just today commenced the annual celebration of their culture, which they aptly named DelFest, and they urged us to tarry and partake in the fruits of their traditions. Their enchantment overcame our reluctant but weary travelers and we consented. The troops must have been more excited than they let on, or maybe they foretold more than I; they had our encampment set up in a clip and were acquainting themselves with the neighbors liberally.

We took a jaunt, as suggested, to witness the opening ceremonies with The Mayor. The Family McCoury, headed by the renowned patriarch Del, greeted the villagers like their own kin. To welcome them, and indeed us, he sang songs of beauty and devotion, of this land we are all seeking to discover, of all that this life might proffer. He made the troops’ eyes tearful, but they would never admit such. He honored the legacies of the Deltopians’ unique history and left open the door to the architects of the future. 

Yonder Mountain String Band | DelFest 2024 | Nicholas J. Price for Festy GoNuts

The family Yonder presented next, a household with seats on the Mountain String Band council who provided a fantastic display of musicianship on their stringed instruments. As we came to learn, this family has wielded many years of powerful influence in the land of Deltopia, ebbing and flowing as influence does. Villagers informed us that recent years have seen striking and courageous moves to create the presentation today, and as we absorbed the stories in their notes, all of us were beginning to understand what this celebration embodies. 

A newcomer to the ton, young Daniel of the family Donato, with his uncanny and surprising rhythms and melodies, had the villagers stunned in awe at his performance. Now, we travelers have done much exploring of this great Nation, as you my dear family well know, and this raucous affair is not the first time we’ve seen music played on instruments. However, I must impress upon you the great glory and supernatural musicianship of these long-haired gypsies. I pray that you may one day witness such a spectacle. 

There were even more ceremonies to celebrate opening day, and some of our travelers were whisked into the night, but this loyal leader, keen to contemplate what had already been witnessed, was ready to retire, knowing all too well that time would need to be granted to document this unusual day, for your amusement when it arrives to you at home. 


With love and many blessings, 

Your Devoted Kindred

Daniel Donato | DelFest 2024 | Nicholas J. Price for Festy GoNuts

May 24, 1824

Beloved Family, 

When I describe to you the pleasures of this day, you will think I recount in jest; I assure you, I do not. We spent another day adorned in DelFest’s magical, mystical majesty. We awoke with a glorious sunrise and rejuvenated our bodies in the Potomac. Some villagers performed a routine of stretching we were told they learned from Tibetan Monks. Others were beginning their indulgences in a ritual they called the Bloody Mary Morning. To the tunes of a quintet from The Wilson Springs Hotel (a fine establishment no doubt, if their musicians are any representation), those partaking in the ceremonies filled their cups with not only a fine clear spirit but, of all things, vegetables. A remarkable tradition I shall introduce to you upon my return. 

Another tradition we were blessed to witness was the annual performance of a third-generation McCoury and his band of Broomestix. It seems this young musician and his brethren have matured quite considerably; villagers mark the annual DelFest as notable not only for the growth of their leadership, but for the growth of their own kin, who return year over year to frolic in the grounds without trepidation. 

A group of the finest charmers, they called themselves Sweet Lillies, produced a sound unlike any others, layering foreign elements and styles with traditional sonnets and melodies. Their radiant message was uplifting and poignant, adding to the allure of these breathtaking moments. With a myriad of ceremonies occurring concurrently, our direction was swept with the soft wind blowing off the mountains, and we soon found ourselves basking in the timeless storytelling of one Mister John Craigie. At once humorous and heartening, he spun a weaving journey of tales, many of traveling the land, which spoke sweetly to mine own heart.

Marty Stuart | DelFest 2024 | Nicholas J. Price for Festy GoNuts

The Fabulous house of Superlatives, led by General Marty Stewart, whipped the festivities into an uproarious afternoon delight before Mayor Del led us into the sunset with the classic songs of the rich Deltopian community. Upon the darkening of the sky, the silhouettes of five gentlemen danced across our vision. The rock face above the river became alight with shapes and colors. The o-be-joyfuls of the day may have made our heads afloat and our limbs abob, but sure as I am a traveler, Green was the Sky and Blue was the Grass during this dual celebration. 

The stars that blanket the night were carried to the wee morning hours by the exhilarating family of Leftover Salmon, joined by various lords of the extended McCoury clan, a mighty reunion and display indeed. Throughout the settlement, fires crackled and songs were passed round encampments like hymns. They float to me at this very moment, as I settle into dreamland and send my love to you. 

More to remark on tomorrow, undoubtedly. 


With fondness and familial longing, 

Your Amused Kindred

DelFest 2024 | Nicholas J. Price for Festy GoNuts
Greensky Bluegrass | DelFest 2024 | Nicholas J. Price for Festy GoNuts

May 25, 1824

Cherished Family, 

I write to you now at the end of a third splendid rise and fall of the blazing sun, of which we were too well reminded by the staggering heat, here at DelFest. A cool rain in the later hours brought relief to celebrants, and did naught to dampen the excitement of the continuing ceremonies. 

Many new families experiencing the rise of their place in Deltopian society had opportunities to present their craft at Delfest; we found particular fondness in those of Wood Belly, Colebrook Road, and JigJam, who beckoned the new day forth with enchanting and revitalizing tunes. A descendant of the clan Grisman, Sam, and his Project, recalled the songs of his ancestors, which we were told are held in high regard among many Deltopians. Indeed, most everyone knew the words to sing along and a feeling of unity swept through the land. 

As the sun began to make its slow descent in the sky, there became a bright shimmer in thine eyes. Shinyribs took the stage and what entered our ears did not seem to neatly align with what we had come to know of DelFest. The villagers told us they welcome the annual blessing of learning from other cultures and often invite neighboring communities to present a ceremony of their own. This group, for example, played on a set of loud, round rhythmic instruments called drums! Almost unheard of in this mountain music. 

ShinyRibs | DelFest 2024 | Nicholas J. Price for Festy GoNuts

The light rain that began to dribble on our skin encouraged a retreat to individual encampments but before long, the descendant of one of the most legendary families in this land was set to present his ceremony. Congressman Lukas of the family Nelson, leading a band of the host McCourys, transformed the villagers with his swooning and sincerity. Among several emotive recitals was a unique incantation of the most popular hymn by the revered songstress Adele, which incited a great applause. Included in the performance was the highly lauded, mysterious flower fairie Sierra Ferrell, whose voice danced sweetly atop Nelson’s. 

Sierra Ferrell | DelFest 2024 | Nicholas J. Price for Festy GoNuts

In concluding the evening affairs, The Travelin’ McCourys, the festival’s hosts and trail-brethren to our travelin’ troops, displayed timeless classics in traditional fashion with futuristic skills and tactful charisma. After paying deep homage to their patriarch and the songs of their – nay, our – heritage, they settled the villagers back to their fires or ushered them off to the ceremonies of the darkness.

Through the night hours wafted songs from The Brothers Comatose and the Davisson Brothers with special presiding officer Vince Herman, with smells of midnight sausages roasting on smokey pits permeating the grounds, as villagers lay to rest in the damp but welcome embrace of a moist night’s sleep.

We would do ourselves a disservice to not see this unique occurrence through to the end, and thus my final report of this remarkable event shall arrive on the morrow. 


With the Utmost Tenderness,

Your Enriched Kindred

The Brothers Comatose | DelFest 2024 | Nicholas J. Price for Festy GoNuts

May 26, 1824

Well well well, my esteemed Family. 

You may now count a freshly adorned Deltopian among your line of descent. On our final day in this tremendous dream, we celebrated not only the manifold musics of the land, but the connections made, the spirituality uncovered, the profundity of the earth, and the power of living upon it. 

The family Keel had a brand new Experience for us, a divergence apparently from their traditional ceremony, yet a welcome one. As we came to learn, this leader Larry and his cohorts can seem to do no wrong with their approach to the music of the Deltopians, as he too included a kit of drums in this new presentation. A troupe of innocent-seeming sirens, known as Big Richard, sang sweet songs but spoke of things usually reserved for the menfolk; quite a comical and delightful set of entertainment by these wayfarers.

Larry Keel Experience | DelFest 2024 | Nicholas J. Price for Festy GoNuts

Villagers were abuzz with excitement for the legendary Don Was, visiting from the Great North with his Pan-Detroit Ensemble; it was their first-ever ceremony at DelFest and indeed, their first-ever ceremony… ever! But they displayed with strength and aptitude, firmly holding the attention of Deltopia. 

After one final, comforting presentation from Mayor Del and his band, the mystical Lady Ferrell returned with her own ceremony; it was a soft and touching set of poems from her heart, backed by stunning yet delicate notes from her talented accompaniment. In a grand act of closing ceremonies, the powerful Old Crow Medicine Show pulled from all corners of their extensive catalog, providing the remedies needed to keep the villagers celebrating. They prepared traditional tributes and freshly brewed dreamcraft as a gift to the nation of DelFest, and, especially after a threatening bout of weather nearly prevented their appearance, the nation was awash with gratitude for it. For this, most certainly, but for the ceremonies as a whole, for how they came together in compliment and in collaboration, for how they perfectly and precisely created the magic that villagers can carry through their year ahead. 

That magic is, of course, the music. The music that has shaped lives and created communities. The music that has bonded families and strengthened believers. The music that breathes life, and hope, into the minds of people who need it most. The people who feel it most. Us. 

Sierra Ferrell | DelFest 2024 | Nicholas J. Price for Festy GoNuts

When the days grow longer and the air starts to fill with the thick sweetness of summertime, I will forever recall our four days and nights in the hills of Cumberland.

Under the gaze of DelMountain, amongst the caress of the Deltopians, at the extraordinary DelFest, we travelers became something else. We transformed. We transcended


Tomorrow, we pack and ramble on. On to the next great adventure, the forthcoming unknown beauty. We continue to explore the lands that gave us this experience and make our ways towards home once again. If we’re lucky, we’ll stumble upon another community ready to welcome us with open arms, but already we hold in our hearts quite a special place for DelFest. 


I trust you have enjoyed the rendering of this journey as much as we have relished living it. 


With Absolute Bliss,

Your Enlightened Kindred


This amazing account was scripted by the talented Carly Shields.  Read her colorful DelFest 2023 Review.  

DelFest 2024 | Nicholas J. Price for Festy GoNuts
DelFest 2024 | Nicholas J. Price for Festy GoNuts
Sierra Ferrell | DelFest 2024 | Nicholas J. Price for Festy GoNuts
DelFest 2024 | Nicholas J. Price for Festy GoNuts
A Letter From DelFest: DelFest 2024 Review

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