Mountain Sky kicks off concert series May 2 with Grateful for Spring Jam and BBQ
When a couple of friends came across 117 acres of pristine land in Scott Township four years ago, they started to dream. They dreamt of creating an outdoor music venue that would be a place for people to come and see great live music, and would offer musicians a place that made them feel like they were at home.
Through the help and dedication of countless people, that dream became Mountain Sky – a music and arts hotspot located less than a mile off of I-81 North. Over the last few years, Mountain Sky grew from having only a small indoor stage, to a large multi-stage camping friendly venue that welcomed everyone from members of the Allman Brothers Band and Rusted Root, to local acts like Mike Miz and The Village Idiots.
In advance of this season’s kickoff event — the Grateful for Spring Jam and BBQ — we caught up with Michael “Ragu” Rogowski, who along with Billy Butler and Mike Savaro, is co-partner of the venue. Like many Mountain Sky volunteers, Rogowski was involved since day one and has helped turn their dream into a reality.
Weekender: When you guys found the land that would eventually become Mountain Sky, what were your initial plans to make use of the grounds?
Michael Rogowski: Basically what we are doing now was the vision then. A place where families and friends could gather to share arts, music and enjoy it all in a beautiful nature setting.
W: When the venue first started putting on shows what was the reception like? Did the thoughts of building a permanent outdoor stage start materializing at this point?
MR: When we first started putting on shows, where the inside stage is now, there weren’t any ceilings. The windows were all broke, and there was minimal power supply, but the vibe was there. We were like a bunch of adult kids building a fort or tree house, and we all believed in the vision. Building a permanent outside stage was there from day one; it was more like, how are we going to make this happen financially etc.
W: Contrary to other venues, Mountain Sky is known for its multi-day camping festivals. Was the abundance of land something that influenced the decision for camping?
MR: The abundance of land was a big factor for the camping aspect, but it was more about people coming up, enjoying our place and not having to leave to travel back home. Come, enjoy and stay the night or the weekend.
W: While the focus of the music is mostly local, Mountain Sky hosted national acts like Dickey Betts and Preach Freedom, with Freedom returning to perform numerous times. Are more national acts something that Mountain Sky is looking to do?
MR: Oh yeah. Although the heart of the place are artists from the Northeast, and we would truly like to thank them for all they’re love and support. We’ve been in contact with literally hundreds of acts about coming to Mountain Sky. Some such as Preach Freedom, Poppa Chubby, Mark Diomede and the Juggling Suns, the Furthur bus and the Merry Pranksters have come, played and seen what a unique venue we offer and have come back to play again because they believe in us and have become part of the Mountain Sky family. We’re always looking to work with great bands to play and have the logistics work so everyone benefits. Stay tuned for more announcements!
W: How has the crowd response been to what Mountain Sky has done over the last four years?
MR: In a word, fantastic. The crowds have been growing with every event. We see and welcome new faces all the time and people love it here. They say once you come to the Mountain you will come back. We’ve seen that to be true.
W: What is in store for the future of the venue?
MR: Well we’re very excited to have Blueberry Hills Farm outside of Forest City sponsoring our greenhouse this year. So it’s really cool that we’ll be growing our own produce. I can envision a bigger stage down by the apple orchard in the future and there’s been more and more bands from out of the area staying here or stopping by on their way to another show, so hopefully we become a musicians retreat. We’re also working on our own online radio station, Mountain Sky Radio, that will feature all the great artists that have played here along with countless local artists who some people have yet to hear.