Pickamania in the Black Hills

This year’s event a tribute to its founder


From its origins in the mid-1980s as a backyard party hosted in a garlic shed, Pickamania has evolved into an annual festival celebrating the love of acoustic music of all genres. Pickamania 2023 features a talented line-up of bluegrass, Americana, folk and blues musicians at the Black Range Lodge in Kingston. This year the theme throughout will be a tribute to, and celebration of life for, the originator of the event, Bill Bussmann.
Pickamania originator Bill Bussmann, who died in May, was a self-taught luthier, and his hand-crafted “Old Wave mandolins” were known world-wide. For more than 40 years he and his wife, Susie, lived along Animas Creek, near Truth or Consequences, raising a family and contributing to their community. Bill was also an accomplished bass player, performing in local bands, and, as Pickamania’s master of ceremonies, injecting his special sense of humor into the proceedings. On Sunday, Sept. 10, Pickamania will be dedicated to celebrating his life, with friends far and wide gathering to play music and honor his memory.
Sponsored by the Sierra County Arts Council, admission is $20 for Friday, $40 for Saturday, and Sunday will be free, with donations accepted. A three-day Festival Pass is $50 per person. Advance tickets are available online at www.sierracountyarts.org.
Pickamania kicks off on Friday at 6 p.m. with original folk music from Gabrielle Louise, a singer/songwriter from Paonia, Colorado, with Ryan Dilts, www.gabriellelouise.com. Next, veteran songstress Wil Maring and her partner, guitar/fiddle virtuoso and Nashville session musician Robert Bowlin, will entertain with traditional and original country, folk and bluegrass. www.wilmaring.com
On Saturday at 3 p.m. Albuquerque’s Duke City Swamp Coolers will liven up the afternoon with their high energy traditional and original tongue-in-cheek bluegrass tunes www.dukecityswampcoolers.com. They’ll be followed by banjo virtuoso Tim Weed, www.timweed.com, performing an eclectic blend of original music from traditional bluegrass, to soulful ballads, to classical instrumental compositions. Next, the duo of flat-picking guitar champion Peter McLaughlin and Chris Brashear (fiddle and mandolin) will offer an original blend of “southwestern” bluegrass music, shaped by the landscapes and legends of the west, www.petermclaughlin.info. Saturday evening will culminate as Pickamania’s all-stars combine their talents in an audience-pleasing “Super Jam.”
Sunday music will begin at 11 a.m., with a “Gospel Hour” singalong, followed by a community potluck lunch, and personal memories of Bill Bussmann. The afternoon will be filled with music from Bill’s family, many friends and former bandmates, including the Hard Road Trio, the Hassle Family, the 24/7 Blues Band, the Miner’s Garage Band, and many more, and notably his son Ezra Bussmann, who is highly accomplished on fiddle, dobro, and mandolin.
The outdoor pavilion and shady landscape at the Black Range Lodge offers a covid-safe environment for music and mingling. On Saturday refreshments will be available throughout the afternoon and evening, including pizza, ice cream and apple pie. Black Range Vineyards will be on hand to offer New Mexico wine and beer for purchase throughout the festival. blackrangevineyards.com
Since 2017 Pickamania has been held in the mountain community of Kingston, once a rich silver mining town, now a quiet hamlet surrounded by the Gila National Forest, about 30 minutes west of I-25.