Jillian uses affiliate links in this post, meaning she may get a commission for any purchases made using these links. Commissions go towards keeping this site active. For more information, please see her Privacy and Disclosure Policies page. Read on to see her list of the best Music Festivals in South Central PA.
*Note: This post was neither sponsored nor endorsed by any festival mentioned. All opinions and photos are from my point of view as either an attendee or vendor.
Music Festivals in South Central PA (Recommended by a local)
Whether as a working volunteer, vendor, or just an attendee, I have been to many music festivals over the years. Most I have been to were in Pennsylvania where I currently live. To help spread the word about things to do in the South Central PA area, and possibly offer something new for music fans to check out, here is a list of big and small music festivals I would recommend. It includes a little something for everyone, whether you like rock, country, or even boy bands. The music festivals are listed in chronological order, with a festival or two to check out almost every month from the beginning of the year to the end!
Millennium Music Conference
While not exactly labeled as a “festival,” this conference is probably better known by locals for the concerts that take place around the Harrisburg area rather than the actual conference sessions. The last weekend in February each year, the Harrisburg area sees many bands, singer-songwriters, and music industry pros come to town. These are the two biggest reasons why: the conference itself, and the talent “showcase.” The conference offers classes, panels, and workshops in writing and promoting music. 2018’s conference was at a difference venue then previous year, now held at Park Inn by Radisson Harrisburg West which is actually in Mechanicsburg, PA.
The Talent showcase is best explained as more of a festival that is spread across the Harrisburg area. Over 20 venues including bars, restaurants, bookstores, coffeehouses, and other similar venues host concerts open to the public. Most are free, and many genres are included so you are sure to find a place to hangout at you know you will be able to stand the music to the wee hours of the morning.
I have found new favorite bands to listen to that came from both near and far for this event. You never know who you might meet! I got to talk to the Co-founder of ReverbNation, Lou Plaia. Very cool moment!
Millenium Music Conference 2019 will take place Feb 21-24. See more info to be released at https://musicconference.net/
Rocky Knob Folky Fest
This and the next two festivals I will mention take place at a campground close to where I live near Gettysburg, PA. Deer Run Camping Resort has done a great job hosting more and more music events that are open not only to campers, but also to the public. I am proud to say I now have experience as a vendor with my chair massage business at all three of these music festivals! All 3 festivals boast of two stages usually with over 20 bands.
Typically this newer folk and bluegrass festival is held the last weekend of April. This festival is run by the same organizers of the locally well-known “Gettysburg Rocks” Events. Just having ran it’s 4th year this past April, this festival grows bigger and better every year. Many of the bands proclaim from the stage how much they love coming back every year. Many campers who are regulars at the campground are fond of this event. It is not a huge festival, but I think that makes it so lovable. There is more of a family-friendly, home-like atmosphere I feel comfortable in every year.
It is not just local bands who play, but also many who come from across the US! The talent chosen to play here has been picked by a good ear. A big headliner this year, The Ghost of Paul Revere, was recently featured on Conan! It is fun to think about what this growing little jewel of a festival could become in future years.
More info on Rocky Knob Folky Fest at www.folkyfest.com
This festival features bands and artists who mainly perform country. Not my favorite genre, but I found this festival to be just as much fun as Rocky Knob. All three of these festivals at Deer Run offer day or weekend passes, camping, outdoor activities, food and merch vendors, and more. S’more Jam usually takes place in June, this year June 1 & 2.
More info on S’more Jam 2018 in their Facebook Event.
Not to be confused with S’more Jam, Fall Jam is the Rock version of the previous two festivals. It is the second to last weekend in September, this year being Sept. 21-22. It features mostly local hard rock bands, and like Folky Fest is put on by the “Gettysburg Rocks crew.” I did not feel this festival was as family friendly, but still a blast for those who are into harder rock styles.
More info on their Facebook Page.
Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival
This just might be the most popular Bluegrass Festival in the South Central PA area. This festival is put on twice a year at Granite Hill Campground in beautiful Gettysburg, PA. The 2018 festivals are May 17-20 & August 16-19. I had been to several of the August festivals as a vendor, and enjoyed my time. This festival features bands who most are considered “Bluegrass proper” (matching suits and ties, always a 5 piece band, etc.) The audience is very nice and polite, made up of mostly older adults. There are not many vendors, but there are plenty of places around to shop and eat considering this event is right in Gettysburg.
More information available at www.gettysburgbluegrass.com
Music on the Mountain at Kings Gap Mansion
Music on the Mountain is a series of small music concerts over the summer at Kings Gap State Park. They take place the first Sunday afternoon of each month from June-September. Each month is a different genre, past genres including celtic, country, folk, and more. The music is set in front of a beautiful old Cameron-Masland Mansion that was built around 1900. I love the view from the back porch of the Mansion!
I felt the need to mention this event even though not a festival, it is growing popular to locals around the Carlisle/Mt Holly Springs area. This event is very family friendly, and usually the gardens are open and mansion is open for tours. It is FREE, and they have a food vendor or two come up in case attendees get hungry.
Kings Gap State Park offers many hiking trails and nature areas, and holds many outdoor-related events throughout the year. I love taking my dog hiking there!
More info available at www.friendsofkingsgap.org/home/events
Appalachian Trail Music Festival
In the little town of Boiling Springs there is a nice little folk/bluegrass festival in the middle of June. The beauty of the surroundings is what attracts me to this festival. It is held at Children’s Lake, which is a giant pond in the middle of town surrounded by beautiful homes and small businesses.
This year’s festival will be held on June 17th, and admission is free. This small festival is growing popular with locals, and has included more bands each year. For it’s 4th year it will feature well-loved, local bands including The Flat Wheels and North Mountain Ramblers. There will be a few food vendors, but if you really want a good treat I highly recommend the newly opened “Sugar Shack” across the street! Best fudge ever, and many ice cream flavor choices!
More info available on this website, and in the Facebook Event.
(See this post for more info about Creation and Uprise Festivals!)
Creation is the largest Christian Music Festival in the US. It is usually the last week in June, with the dates for this year being June 27-30. It is held in Mt. Union, which is about an hour and a half Northwest of the Harrisburg area. I have both attended and volunteered at this festival, and either way have felt part of the “family.” This festival boasts of what most large music festivals offer: camping, outdoor activities, vendors, tons of food, several stages, and new things to do added every year! The things this festival has that others might not: a candlelight service, baptism, communion, a prayer tent, worship sessions, areas for youth leaders, special youth group activities, and more!
This popular Christian Music Festival welcomes anyone to attend, so if you see a more mainstream band will be there such as Skillet or Relient K, do not be afraid to come on in at least for a day! Everyone is usually pretty relaxed for a giant crowd full of young and old. Besides a Main stage pictured below, you might also head over to the Fringe (Rock) stage, Worship stage, or Kids stage. Things slightly change from year to year, so you will have to keep checking the website to see what stages are where.
More info available at www.creationfest.com
Bluegrass on the Grass
Bluegrass on the grass is a single day festival held on the grounds of Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. This year’s festival is July 14th, and admission is always free. It is usually very well attended even though it is a smaller festival with only a couple food vendors. However, since it is right in downtown Carlisle there is plenty to do if you really want to make a longer day of it. At this Bluegrass festival you will see local and nationally touring Bluegrass Bands of both “Bluegrass Proper” and “Newgrass” style. I only attended this festival twice, and never came away with any photos. I can say you definitely want to get there early for a good view, and it is bring your own chair or blanket.
More info on this website.
Even though it has tapered off to every other year or two (with so far sadly none announced for 2018) I must drop some info about one of my absolute favorite larger music festivals. Mixtape Festival is a big Festival of Internationally known pop music acts that takes place at Hersheypark Stadium. In past years it has been held mostly in August, and has been either one or two days long. This Festival is awesome for those who loved the pop music of the 80s/90s. The New Kids on the Block usually headline this festival every year, and other acts have included the Backstreet Boys, Kelly Clarkson, Train, The Script, OneRepublic, Aaron Carter, Paula Abdul, and more.
You never know what might happen, but I love that almost every year was some kind of “comeback” for a major artist. Paula Abdul was the big news at the last festival which took place in 2016, TLC the year before, Hanson in 2013, and a bunch of well known boy bands the first year. As you can see below, my photography was not as great back in 2012…..and let me tell ya, those VIP seats with the better views can be expensive! I luckily won VIP passes for the second Mixtape Festival. Those included free admission to the afterparty, and a cookout hosted by some of the acts. As for extra events like that, each Mixtape Festival has offered different things each year. Another reason I love this fest; you never know how it will change up from year to year.
I really hope the Mixtape Festival comes back again. Gives us pop music fans a break from all these Bluegrass and folk fests! What Hersheypark fans love: usually your ticket includes a day to Hersheypark!
I will faithfully continue to keep an eye out on the Mixtape Festival Website.
Uprise is another huge Christian Music Festival, and possibly the second largest, at least in PA. This year’s Uprise Festival will be September 14 & 15 at the Shippensburg Fairgrounds in Shippensburg, PA. This Christian Music festival is newer and shorter than Creation, but has grown to also offer camping and several stages as well. It also presents many Major Christian artists. You can read more about it in this post.
I like to float between the rockstar and hip-hop stages for most of the festival. Even on these smaller stages you can watch awesome performances by top Christian artists. Everything is a little closer together than Creation, so floating around between stages and finding friends I know is easier. This festival is becoming more and more popular for those with families, as it is also more affordable than Creation.
For more information you can visit their Website, but I would recommend their Facebook page for having more activity and info at this time.
What music festivals have you been to? I might have more music festivals to add to this list in the future. For now I hope you enjoyed learning about some of what is currently available in my part of Pennsylvania.
Thanks for reading,
My Shopping List for Music Festivals: (Click to shop!)