Oglebay Institute is presenting the Wheeling Bluegrass Festival (WBF) on the grounds of the Stifel Fine Art Center on Saturday, September 9th. The bluegrass festival, a first for Wheeling, will be complimented by two additional events, the WBF Pre-Party and Sunday Gospel Grass, both in conjunction with Oglebay Park.
The weekend begins on Friday, September 8th at Camp Russell in Oglebay Park at 7:00pm. The WBF Pre-Party features two bands that have garnered quite a following in the region – local rockers Two Bridges, and the Newgrass outfit The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers. Two Bridges, while decidedly not bluegrass, brings a funky, at times reggae-esq blend that can best be described as Appalachian Soul (and may just stir up something in your own Appalachian soul). The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers are a group of hardworking Newgrass troubadors who have been branching out and touring different regions of the USA. Their sound, driven by Libby Eddy’s vocals and prowess on the fiddle and Gary Antol’s songwriting and guitar work, will leave you spellbound and dancing at the same time. The music starts at 8:00pm and will be done and dusted by 11:00pm, at which point you may want to go get some shut-eye because on…
Saturday, September 9th, Oglebay Institute along with WBF sponsors – The Hess Family Foundation, Yuengling, Paull Associates, The Wheeling National Heritage Area, Lamar Advertising, and The Children’s Museum of the Ohio Valley – will present the inaugural Wheeling Bluegrass Festival. Gates open up at 10:00am with music beginning at 11:00am and continuing until 10:00pm. The music is set to kick off with the Wheeling Park High School Bluegrass Band. These kids are wonderful! While the line-up is ever evolving, the quality of the student musicians remains high. Get there early and cheer on these bluegrass legends of tomorrow. They’ll be followed by The Roadhogs, local fixtures at all of those pubs your mama warned you about. These fellas are best known for taking classic tunes and Roadhoggin them up with banjo, guitar, harp, bass, and twin mandolins.
Up next is a trio of local bands with very loyal followings beginning with the Marsh Wheeling String Band a band that quickly packs the dance floor. And we are hoping, praying, believing that we will indeed hear the yodeling prowess of Chris Wack. Keep your fingers crossed. Marsh will be followed by local heroes the Cabin Fever String Band.
If you live within a hundred miles of the City of Wheeling, this band has crossed your radar at some point. Fairs, festivals, square dances, and coffeehouses are just some of the venues where these guys perform. My dad loves them and my 7 year old daughter loves them. Their music affects the young, the old, and the folks in between. Almost Famous hails from the other side of the Ohio River and will be bringing their tight sounds to the WBF. Steven Moore has won the National Banjo Championship on multiple occasions, and provides the drive for this 4-piece out of Belmont County. Regardless of the temperature, these three bands are going to provide a hot afternoon of music at the WBF.
The music continues on with Herb & Hanson, our buddies. These two fellas out of Virginia, armed with nothing more than a guitar and a mandolin, will quickly have you under their spell. Clever songwriting, beautiful harmonies, superb musicianship, and their witty personalities are the package you get when you attend a Herb & Hanson show. Their musical influences are wide ranged, including the likes of Del McCoury, John Hartford, and the Grateful Dead.
Grand Ole’ Ditch – straight outta Cumberland – will be on hand and ready to jam. They’re a six-piece: guitar, mandolin, dobro, banjo, bass, and drums. Yes, you read that correctly, drums. Maybe not what you would call a “traditional” bluegrass instrument, but it’s been done before, and these guys do it well. Clever songwriting and tight improvisation lead us to believe this band is going places.
The Wheeling Bluegrass Festival will be closing out with Johnny Staats and the Delivery Boys. What can we say? There is a reason that these blokes are heading the show. Johnny Staats is a world-renowned mandolinist, as good as Ronnie McCoury, Sam Bush, or David Grisman. He’s a musician’s musician, fast but not flashy, mighty but still melodic. And the Delivery Boys are right on par; Johnny surrounds himself with the best. Stick around, it’ll be worth your while.
A vendors market and a Kid’s Area will also be featured at the WBF. The Kid’s Area will be hosted by our friends at the Children’s Museum of the Ohio Valley and feature interactive activities, visits from main stage performers (who else thinks Scott Black may teach the youngn’s a bit of clogging?), and good old fashioned games and laughs. The vendors market will feature crafters and quality goods – The Samara Shop, Ginger Blue Naturals, Words & Music, The Rowdy Ladybug, The Pretty Pickle, Lone Stone Designs, Loving WV, Little Grave Creek Designs, WBF Merch Tent – along with food and beverage vendors – Hash Browns & New Grounds, Ideal Provisions, Brynn E. Bears, The Ohio Valley Eliminators and the Yuengling Beer Tent. Also on site will be an Oglebay Institute information tent (where you can purchase discounted Mountain Moon Coffeehouse season passes), and an Australian Raffle tent. What’s that? Better come along and find out.
Music ends at 10:00pm, but the weekend isn’t finished, not quite. Gospel Grass, the final bit of the WBF weekend, will take place at the Anna Kuchinka Amphitheater in Oglebay. This free event, taking place Sunday morning from 9:30am – 12pm, will begin with a church service hosted by Grace Lutheran Church (all are welcome) and will transition at 9:45 into a gospel bluegrass performance hosted by Randall Curry, with performances by Brother Randall & Friends, Bill Gorby & the Musical Mercenaries, Out of the Blue, and other surprise guests from the WBF. Gospel Grass is free and open to the public.
All of OI is ready for a weekend of superb bluegrass music here in the Friendly City. In addition to our sponsors, we want to acknowledge all of our volunteers, whom you’ll see at the WBF in their teal shirts; give ‘em a pat on the back, they have been, and will be working hard – for you. Also, a special thanks to Oglebay Park and Mike Potts for support with logistics and venues.
For more information or to purchase your tickets visit www.wheelingbluegrassfest.com or call 304.242.7700.
See you at the Wheeling Bluegrass Festival!