CHARLESTON, W.Va. — This year’s Appalachian String Band Music Festival featuring some of the best fiddlers and banjo pickers in the world is set for July 29-Aug. 2, 2015. The five-day camping experience in the heart of West Virginia also includes music contests, dancing, arts and crafts and games for the whole family.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History’s 26th annual music festival will be held at Camp Washington-Carver in Clifftop, Fayette County. The popular annual festival draws thousands of string-band musicians and fans from across the country and around the world for its concerts, dancing, workshops and contests in which musicians and dancers can win prizes of up to $700.
Megan B. Lynch Chowning , who won the Robert C. Byrd award for traditional fiddle playing at the Grand Master Fiddler Championship this year in Nashville, Tenn., will be a featured performer. On Saturday, Aug. 1, Chowning will teach an afternoon master’s workshop. She is a seven-time national fiddle champion, touring musician, recording artist, teacher, singer and flatfoot dancer.
Chowning joins grand masters Daniel Gellert of Dayton, Ohio, and Ginny Hawker of Coxs Mills, W. Va., who also will be featured in showcase workshops/performances at the festival.
Phil Jamison, square dance caller, old-time musician and flatfoot dancer, also will be showcased at this year’s event. He will give a talk and host a discussion on the history of Appalachian dances on Saturday at 3 p.m. Jamison recently published a book, Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance (University of Illinois Press), in which he explores the origins of the square dances, step dances (buckdance, flatfooting and clogging), team clogging and other forms that are part of the Appalachian dance tradition. Jamison will sign and sell his books for $28 after his talk. More than 25 arts, craft and music vendors will be on site along with food vendors, and fresh produce will be for sale.
Contests include fiddle and banjo on Thursday, July 30, neo-traditional band on Friday, July 31, and traditional band and flatfoot dance on Saturday, Aug. 1. Senior (60 and over) and youth (15 and under) categories are available in the fiddle and banjo contests. A youth award is available in both the band contests for groups with all members 18 years old or younger. The neo-traditional band contest also provides an award for best original song and tune. The flatfoot dance contest makes awards in four age categories.
Throughout the week, festival-goers can step onto the dance floor to learn flatfoot dancing and square dancing. Nightly square dances in the historic Great Chestnut Lodge from Wednesday through Saturday and outdoor concerts on Friday and Saturday evening are popular attractions. Highlights for children and families include arts and crafts, basket making, daily yoga sessions and more.
Daily admission is $15 for adults and $10 for seniors (age 60 and over) and youth (age 6 – 17). Children five and under get in free. Rough camping for the five-day festival is available on a first-come, first-served basis for $45 for adults, $40 for seniors and youth, $90 per family (two adults and any number of children under the age of 18) and $80 per senior family (two adults 60 years old or more and any number of children under the age of 18). Early camping starts July 24 at 1 p.m., and additional fees apply. The rough-camping rate and daily admission fee includes admission to all activities.
A beautiful retreat listed in the National Register of Historic Places and operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, Camp Washington-Carver serves as the state’s mountain cultural arts center. The facility nurtures the cultural heritage embodied in the site since its dedication in 1942 as a 4-H and agricultural extension camp for West Virginia’s African Americans. The camp is located in Fayette County next to Babcock State Park, just off Route 60 (Midland Trail) on Route 41 South.
For more information about the Appalachian String Band Music Festival or a complete schedule of events, visit the division’s website at www.wvculture.org/stringband/index.html or call the division at (304) 558-0220. Camp Washington-Carver can be reached at (304) 438-3005.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the division’s programs, events and sites, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
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