For more than 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. In 1996, Nick 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. 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 is still a key member of 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, played at Bear on the Square in recent years.
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.