On Saturday, May 17, folks from all around the world will 'Gather in the Gap' to relish in the rich traditions of historic Southwest Virginia while preserving the cultural heritage of the region for future generations.
The Gathering in the Gap Music Festival, in its eighth year of observation, is a daylong family-oriented event hosted by the Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park in Big Stone Gap, Va., to showcase both the talent of renowned "mountain" musicians as well as local (and underground) performers.
"Our music festival is designed to interpret and help people celebrate the rich history of music that we have in this area," SW Virginia Museum park manager Sharon Ewing said. In the past, big-name country and bluegrass musicians like Darrell Scott, Marty Stuart, The Grascals and Blue Highway have graced the main stage at Gathering in the Gap.
"[Those musical artists] represent the best of what they do," Ewing continued. Following in that tradition this year, Rodney Crowell, The Black Lillies and Dave Eggar will be performing. Ewing added that Crowell is "an incredible talent" who has had hits every decade since the 1960s. The Knoxville, Tenn.-based Black Lillies have been invited to perform at the Grand Ole Opry more than any other band on an independent label and that "if you haven't seen [Juilliard-trained cellist Dave Eggar], you haven't lived."
Gathering in the Gap isn't just about famous musicians, however. It's about small-town folk with big-time talent, Ewing explained.
"It's about the competitions that we have during the day which give people from the region a chance to participate in bluegrass and old-time categories [like] banjo, fiddle, and guitar."
Ewing said, in addition to competing on the museum's front lawn stage, Gathering in the Gap attendees who play music have gotten the opportunity to participate in a variety of workshops over the years.
By offering this, the festival operates under the same credo as the museum: History is best realized through hands-on experience. Ewing said the Southwest Virginia Museum hosts traditional music classes for children as well as summer history programs, the "Stitch in Time" Quilt Show and historic bus tours.
"[The museum does] all kinds of things we feel like that really try to get people hands-on with the history of our area," Ewing said. And "our music festival is all about that."
At 2014's festival, regional bands like Empty Bottle String Band - formed, in part by Southwest Virginia native and current ETSU student Tyler Hughes who grew up taking lessons at the museum - will be playing sets at the event's Acoustic Arbor. Wise JAMS (Junior Appalachian Musicians) will also make appearances.
For attendees less likely to make music at Gathering in the Gap, there will be craft vendors and regional food vendors set up along several blocks surrounding the museum. Ewing said festival patrons may even attend a quilt show or tour the museum throughout the day. This year, she said, "we're having inflatables [for the children] ... it's going to be a blast."
In an effort to be family-friendly, Gathering in the Gap admission is free to children 12 and under. Adult tickets are $15 in advance, and $20 the day of the event. Participants will receive an arm band and can come and go freely.
Interestingly enough, "we always get more [people attending] from out of the area than we do the area," Ewing said. "People, nationally and internationally, love the music that we have in the mountains."
For more information on Gathering in the Gap, visit the website at gatheringinthegapmusicfestival.com or call 276-523-1322 for tickets.