Every year on July 4th weekend, hidden among the hills and winding roads of Garretsville, the hallowed grounds of Nelson’s Ledges ring with the sounds of freedom, celebration and the Grateful Dead. The 11th annual Gratefulfest is in full effect this year, hosting three nights of Dark Star Orchestra, two sets of Keller Williams, and a plethora of other musicians from Donna Jean Godchaux to Boombox to Peter Rowan’s Bluegrass Band to Youtube sensation Isto, among many others.Dark Star is one of the most talented and critically acclaimed cover bands to take to the stage, recreating the music and the energy of the classic psychedelic band in an effort to “raise the Dead.” They have also played with five members of the original band, including Godchaux, who was a vocalist for the Dead. As a frequent guest of DSO, she says that “playing with Dark Star Orchestra is something that feels just exactly like it felt when I was playing with the Grateful Dead.” This strong commitment to the original music and attention to detail is the staple that holds Gratefulfest together, allowing fans to celebrate the inspiring, mind-bending music which most of them were not around to hear in the 60s and 70s. Set up right next to the scenic quarry, the stage at Nelson’s Ledges is the perfect venue for hearing some classic jam bands, complete with a wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube man on top, while the shady woods provide an enchanting place for camping over the holiday weekend. Vendors selling art, jewelry and clothing are lined up along the beach, while families swim during the day and Deadheads party all night. It’s an intimate experience with no VIP section and a solid lineup, where everyone can have the same experience listening to great musicians recreating some great music. Of course, it wouldn’t be Independence Day without a kickass fireworks show and setting a guy on fire. Okay, that last one may only apply to the Ledges, where every year The Burning Man is lit up and sent running into the quarry. On top of that, clowns and fire-spinners will entertain the crowd into the wee hours of the morning, as there’s always something weird to see at Nelson’s. The festival begins July 2nd and goes on until the 5th and tickets are $95 for the whole shebang. A modest price, as you’re guarateed to have at least $100 worth of fun.