When the volunteers who run Mountain Sky — a 117 acre music and camping haven nestled in the woods of Scott Township — approached the 2015 season, they expected everything that’s become synonymous with the venue: weekends of live music, crafts and friendship. What they weren’t expecting was the biggest roadblock of its young life – an issue with the township.
Going into its third year, there were permit issues at the venue. As a result, Mountain Sky was forced to cancel a few events, while sorting everything out.
It’s something longtime volunteer and the venue’s poster designer Chris “Kamala” Towns remembers as a major turning point for the venue, which is now all up to date on township requirements.
“Well it hasn’t been easy,” he said, “but we decided to push on and work toward keeping Mountain Sky alive. We got a really big response from the local community and that really hit home – it made it clear that we had something worth fighting for. Having to cancel some of last year’s events really hurt us financially, but we’re still here. We put on a handful of indoor concerts over the winter and now we’re ready to get back out on the big stage.”
For Michael “Ragu” Rogowski, head of Mountain Sky. the permit issue was an unexpected hassle, but ultimately the process brought the two sides together.
As part of its 2016 season, Mountain Sky will play host to a community picnic, which will serve as a fundraiser for the local community and fire companies.
“Everything with the township seems to be cool,” he said. “It’s really nice working together and everyone seems to be excited about the Scott Township community picnic.”
Like most other picnics or bazaars, it will have all the amenities down to the food and children’s play areas.
“The Scott Township community picnic will be the first of hopefully many to come,” Rogowski said. “It’s like anything else, everything takes time to get going. So far we have Scott Township Lions Club and the Justus Fire Department on board. We’re hoping to get more local organizations involved as well. It’s basically going to be like any other bazaar or fireman’s picnic. Food, drinks, games, children’s activities and music where friends and family new and old come together for a good time.”
While the Scott Township community picnic may be new to the venue, Mountain Sky will continue with its focus on music, beginning May 7 with the Grateful For Spring Jam and BBQ. Sprinkled throughout the rest of the summer the mountain will host a dozen events, making it one of its biggest seasons yet. However, this year features more single-day events, with only three weekend-long events planned.
“With everything that happened last year, it was a big eye-opener for us,” Rogowski said. “It really made us think about what we did wrong in the past and ‘how do we fix it moving forward?’ I think in the beginning of this journey we wanted to go big, not saying that is not going to happen. Like everything in life, you live and you learn, so we are trying a new concept this year by doing one-day shows and focusing on a couple of weekend shows. It’s kind of like playing music; playing the instrument more isn’t always better, a lot of times playing it less is better.”
For Towns, the move was necessary as the amount of time it takes to consistently put on multi-day events could be consuming, especially when it’s done by volunteers.
“We all have busy lives outside of what we do here at Mountain Sky, so running a two or three day event that requires you be at the mountain as early as Friday morning or even Thursday night makes it pretty difficult,” he said. “Secondly we just wanted to be a little different than all of the other festivals, concentrate on one great day of music, have a campout afterwards, and that’s it. We have typically seen more attendees on Saturdays anyhow, so we’re just trying to consolidate things a little. And we do still have Stonehenge in June and Still Grateful Fest in mid September that will last all weekend long.”
Mountain Sky is ready to broaden its horizons and start hosting community events along with all the music it’s become known for. In the mean time, Rogowski hopes everyone who has been to Mountain Sky realizes the family-friendly atmosphere is offered throughout the summer, and would like to see people return.
“First of all, I hope Mother Nature cooperates with us and most importantly, I hope that everyone that comes up here leaves with a smile and continues to come back,” he said. “For the future, we are going to continue to grow as a family and a community, get more schools involved, such as Keystone College with their involvement this year. We are going to get the greenhouse up and running, bring some national and international acts in, and keep moving forward to do what we love: music, arts and creativity.”
Ryan O’Malley is a music writer and photographer who has contributed to the Weekender since 2007.
May 7: Grateful for Spring Jam and BBQ
June 16: 25th Annual Stonehenge Music Festival
July 8: Gospel Fest Church Picnic
July 16: Rockin’ the Mountain
Aug. 6: Mountain Sky Community Picnic
Aug. 13: Benefit Ride for Brad Biesecker
Aug. 20: Mountain Sky Bluegrass Blues Festival
Aug. 27: NEPA Music and Yoga Fest
Sept. 9: Still Grateful Fest 4
Oct. 8: Mountain Sky Halloween Bash