Mountain Music

The South Branch Valley Bluegrass Festival and fireworks display is a family event that brings local and national bluegrass acts to the hills of Romney, W. Va.

By Chelsi Baker | 07/20/2012

Festivalgoers braved the heat at Wapocoma Campground on June 30, 2012, to attend the 4th annual South Branch Valley Bluegrass Festival and fireworks display.

The music drew in a crowd despite the warm weather, and people took cover under umbrellas, hats and tents to keep out of the hot sun until the evening performances.

“We come every year,” said Danielle Crock of Romney, “but it’s not usually this hot. We found creative ways to cope with it, though – water and spray bottles and umbrellas. The kids sat in the car with their dad because of the air conditioning for a little bit to give them time to cool off.”

Local craft vendors lined the edges of the festival for guests to browse between bands, and festivalgoers could enjoy freshly-made lemonade, barbeque and kettle corn.

The festival also offered a “children’s corner”, at which kids could play games and do activities while their parents enjoyed the music and vendors.

“This is a family-oriented event,” said Trina Cox, who created the festival with her fiancée, Lonesome Highway banjo player John Arnold. “There’s no alcohol allowed. No coolers. It’s inexpensive, and you can bring the kids and spend the day listening to music.”

The event featured seven acts, ranging from national bands to local talent. Performers included host band Lonesome Highway, Highland Grass and newcomers Banana Express.

The nationally known Lonesome River Band also performed at the festival for the first time this year.

“We’ve been friends with John Arnold and Trina Cox for many years, and we’re so glad to get to come up here,” said Lonesome River Band banjo player Sammy Shelor. “It’s a great event. You’re not going to find a more beautiful spot anywhere, and it’s great to get to be a part of it this year.”

Shelor is no stranger to the Romney area and was glad to return to this part of the country, he said.

“I used to come up to Capon Bridge back in the ‘80s and play. I know a lot of great players from this area, too, and a lot of bluegrass supporters. People here have always been very gracious to us as a band, me as a player, and just as a friend. It’s always great to get a chance to come here and hang out with everybody.”

Shelor said the crowd got more lively during the evening performances after the sun went down and the heat subsided, but the band enjoyed meeting and talking to fans under their tent after their first show in the afternoon. After their last performance, Shelor, who is a recent recipient of Steve Martin’s Excellence in Bluegrass and Banjo award, played the National Anthem on the banjo just before the fireworks display.

“The fireworks bring in a lot of the crowd I think,” said Cox. “It’s just a tremendous display, and in this valley you can feel the rumble right in your chest.”

While more people showed up after the sun went down to enjoy the fireworks and evening bluegrass performances, Cox was pleased with the overall turnout of the event.

“I don’t know if it’s the bands we brought in this year or the fireworks, but this is the first time in four years we walked through the crowd and saw a lot of new faces,” she said. “We’re bringing people to Romney that might not have been here before, and we have a beautiful venue and a great setting. It’s encouraging.”

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