For more then two decades from the time he moved to Dahlonega in 1983 until his death in 2004, Nick Pender was a major force in the North Georgia bluegrass scene. He and his wife Glenda were co-founders, along with several downtown merchants, of the annual Bear on the Square Mountain Festival. Nick and Glenda developed the entire music program for the event, now in its 18th year. The Pender family continues to support the festival with children and grandchildren taking part in the event in various ways and Glenda serving as president and music chair.
Nick was a musician, playing bass fiddle and singing in the old-time mountain style. (He was also known to break into some great soul singing now and then!). Nick was featured, along with Ralph Stanley and others, in "Feels Like Home," a documentary on the unaccompanied Appalachian folk song by film maker Heavenly Littleton. He recorded in Nashville in 2003, and that CD, Long Time Coming, also features Glenda and the couple’s son Neel. The recording includes an original composition by the two Pender sons, Neel and his brother Scott, and an introduction by daughter Marla Pender McGhee. Nick and Glenda dedicated the album to their grandchildren, Nick Pender, Annie McGhee, Cory Pender, and Will McGhee.
A member of both SEBA and BMI, Nick was co-founder and a member of the Shoal Creek Band, Homemade Jam, and the Gold Rush Bluegrass Band. Glenda still performs on special occasions with the popular Gold Rush Band, and Neel makes frequent guest appearances with the group.
An ardent supporter and promoter of regional musicians, Nick was particularly supportive of teaching kids to play and sing, and he taught at Woody Gap School’s mountain music program. He was also instrumental in the musical development of his nephew, Clayton Avent, whose band, 6 Day Bender, has played at Bear on the Square.
A Certified Public Accountant by profession, he was a fixture in the Dahlonega and Lumpkin County community through his involvement in numerous civic and environmental efforts.
The 18th Annual Bear on the Square Mountain Festival is dedicated to the memory of Zak McConnell.
The region’s music community lost one of it most accomplished young members last fall with the passing of Zak, age 26, of Dahlonega. His death on Tuesday, Oct, 29, 2013, was attributed to heart issues.
Zak not only had a host of friends in our music community, he was related to many of them—including his father Mac, a member of the Dahlonega-based Fool’s Gold band. Zak had appeared on the Bear on the Square stage numerous times, beginning as a “Rising Star” and most recently as a member of Ugly Cousin, a band completely composed of Dahlonega natives, or “Nuggets,” as locals often refer to themselves.
An extraordinary performer on not only his primary instrument, the mandolin, but also the guitar, he was both a singer and a songwriter. Zak founded the Fiddleheads, a progressive string band, in 2009 while a student at the University of North Georgia. The band went on to gain national notoriety in 2011 when it reached the finals of the network television show, “America’s Got Talent.” Returning home, the band released an album, Goodbye L.A.
At the time of his death, Zak was a teaching assistant at the University of Georgia where he was enrolled in the MBA program.
Bear on the Square wishes to acknowledge the loss of a true friend of our festival.
Jim Fahey, who moved to Dahlonega in 2011, loved our town and our festival. He enjoyed telling his friends that Bear on the Square played a major role in his decision to relocate here. He and his wife Sheila were visiting in another North Georgia mountain town when they read an article about the upcoming Bear festival. They came to the event and were charmed by the town, which led to their decision to buy a home in Dahlonega.
Both Jim and Sheila soon came on board with Bear as volunteers. In early 2013 Jim took over chairing our Friends of Bear program which helps support our ever-growing event. Jim took on personal ownership of this program, setting his own goals for fundraising, greeting and talking to people throughout our festival, and promoting the Friends program throughout the year.
Jim passed away on Feb. 12, 2014, following a stroke. He is greatly missed by his Bear family for his warmth, his enthusiasm, and his dedication.