Atlanta local biked all the way to Aiken for bluegrass festival

May 11, 2019

Nick Collins doesn’t have a car, but he didn’t let that – or the 200 miles between here and his hometown of Atlanta – stop him from coming to the Aiken Bluegrass festival.

“I think I just kind of enjoy it,” Collins said. “It’s a nice pre-show ritual. I go to a lot of shows in Atlanta and I just biked all of them.”

This was Collins’ third year at ABF, and he has biked to Aiken every time for the annual weekend-long concert of Bluegrass music from some of the best artists in the business.

Collins has a lot of experience with biking long distances to go to concerts like ABF. He takes back roads to avoid traffic and takes a portable air pump and spare tire with him when he travels – which came in handy when he got a flat tire on the way to Aiken last week.

He once biked to the Northwest Strings Summit concert in Oregon, which was his initiation into the world of bluegrass music.

“After doing that, this kind of seems like doing a nice little leisurely stroll,” Collins said. “I’ve been camping with some of them back in the RVs. The first year here I just set up a tent kind of by myself.”

Many festival-goers utilize the Western Carolina State Fairgrounds’ large camping area for RVs and makeshift tents during ABF like Collins did. People come from all across the country to see the festival.

Over the years, Collins has made several friends at ABF. Some of the performers are even his roommates back in Atlanta.

“I think what I enjoy most about it is it’s a festival where, if anything happens, people are going to have your back,” Collins said. “Like, if you’re having a bad time for whatever reason or you’re not feeling well, someone’s going to be there to check up on you. Here, everyone’s a lot more mellow.”

Collins was most excited to see Billy Strings, a young guitarist from Michigan, perform. Strings took the stage Friday and again on Saturday night during the psychedelic circus performance.

While Collins has been going to the festival for years, some have been going to ABF for over a decade, like Robert Anderson and his sister, Mary.

“The first time I came to the Aiken Bluegrass was in 2007,” Robert said. “They did it downtown. They blocked off two city blocks and I saw Steel Drivers.”

Robert, of North Augusta, remembers when ABF shifted to the polo fields and then again to the Western Carolina State Fairgrounds.

“I haven’t missed a year since 2007,” Robert said. “It’s a great festival.”

He and his sister camp out in a pop-up camper every year for ABF.

“He introduced me to bluegrass, and we’ve been coming every year now,” Mary said. “It’s a tradition.”

The Aiken Bluegrass Festival will end Sunday, May 12. For more info, visit loveabf.com.