In our planning, the one event that seemed to hold the most promise as an ideal event was the Augusta Heritage Festival in Elkins, WV. This is a three-day event that begins with a square dance on Friday night, continues with an all-day multi-stage event in the city park, continues with an evening concert followed by another square dance on the Davis and Elkins campus, and concludes with a gospel sing on Sunday morning. We missed the Friday evening square dance, but we spent the whole afternoon and evening at the festival today.
The multi-stage event in the park was as extraordinary as I hoped it would be. There were many craft vendors with high-quality wares, some food vendors, three stages, a “pickin’” tent, and a great ambiance in this tree-shaded city park. The stages featured some of the same performers we had seen on Thursday evening, and in this setting we had a chance to meet and talk with them one-on-one or ask questions of them in their performance setting.
It was a wonderful opportunity to meet Emily Eagen and tell her personally that her performance was such a treat. I found out that she is teaching in New York City, but that she originally hails from Cincinnati. It was a real joy to be able to encourage her. I hope she continues to follow and achieve her dreams.
I had my mandolin with me, and Elaine and I joined in on a sing-along in the afternoon, led by Don Friedman, the same leader who had led the Thursday night jam after the concert. A lot of the same people were there today. It’s clear that singing is a central joy of their lives.
The evening concert was a live (recorded for future broadcast) performance of the Mountain Stage radio program. It was a great evening! In addition to a number of lesser-known performers we had the opportunity to hear two big-name bluegrass bands: Flatt Lonesome and the Blue Highway band. Flatt Lonesome is a group of young people that is gaining popularity and winning awards; Blue Highway is a band that has been performing for over 20 years. I liked them both, but I enjoyed Blue Highway more. I think their experience shows. It was interesting to learn that their bass player had recently suffered a heart attack and this was his first performance after his recovery. Way to go, Wayne Taylor!!
One fascinating connection happened. The opening act featured a young woman singer-songwriter-guitarist – Dori Freeman. She was accompanied by her father on mandolin: Scott Freeman. We had met Scott last year on our Crooked Road trip. He was part of the two-man band that was playing at the Blue Ridge Music Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I believe it was he that I asked for advice about buying a decent beginner mandolin, and whose advice I followed in purchasing my Kentucky mandolin. Small world!