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Gathering in the Gap serves up taste of Southwest Virginia culture

Debra McCown Thomas • May 21, 2019 at 4:30 PM

The Tim O’Brien Band is the headliner for this year’s Gathering in the Gap festival, and the performance will feature Troy Trischka, an influential banjo player known for having taught and inspired many roots musicians, including 16-time Grammy winner Bela Fleck.

Though the concert is a ticketed event, the festival is free to the public during the day and includes a variety of musical performances along with craft vendors, food vendors, instrument and band competitions, and a kids’ area with inflatables at the 13th annual event, on and around the grounds of the Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park in Big Stone Gap, Virginia.

Daytime performances will be Americana music, a category that includes genres like old-time, bluegrass, and blues. There will be instrumental and band competitions in the old-time and bluegrass styles, as well as a songwriting contest, in which finalists will compete for prizes.

Also, during the day, the festival will feature a show by a local theatre company called Haint So, a story about ghosts and superstitions set in a Wise County coal camp.

The remaining evening lineup includes Love Canon and Cellogram featuring Dave Eggar and Chuck Palmer.

“[Love Canon] does a lot of 80s covers in bluegrass form, which is really, really neat to listen to, and we think they’ll be a big hit,” says Park Manager Aaron Davis. “Dave Eggar and Cellogram will be here this year, and of course he’s played throughout the Tri-Cities area and I think people are pretty familiar with what he does.”

More details can be found on the festival website at www.gatheringinthegap.org.

Davis says the event is all about celebrating Southwest Virginia’s cultural identity.

“In some sense it’s a celebration of our history, and in some it’s the fact that we still have these parts of our culture and it’s pushing into the future,” Davis says. “It’s a nice way to bridge, I think, generations, of looking toward the past and looking toward the future of the culture in this region.”

Located about an hour north of Kingsport in Wise County, Big Stone Gap has been home to the museum since 1948. Inside an impressive 1895 Victorian mansion, the four-story museum tells the region’s story from the pioneer era through the industrial era and toward the present.

Daytime museum admission is included with tickets to the evening concert at the festival ($15 ahead of time or $20 the day of for adults; free for accompanying children 12 and under). Otherwise, it costs $5 for adults and $3 for children to visit the museum.

The festival will start at 10 a.m. on May 25, transitioning around 5 p.m. for the evening concert, which runs from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. There is no charge for parking, which is available near the festival and at Bullitt Park in town, with a shuttle provided. The kids’ area will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Davis says everything – including three music stages, crafters lining the street, the food area and kids’ area – will all be located within a block of the museum, and everyone is invited to come out and enjoy the day.

“You get out in the sunshine, and you get out under a tent somewhere, and you hear people who have stories about how things have impacted them, who they are, where they come from and all of that plays into the idea of culture generally,” Davis says.

“People see it as a music festival primarily, but we have a lot of crafts, food… we’ve had workshops, we do instrument and band competitions, a songwriting competition, we have a children’s area this year, and we also have a regional play by Shoestring Theatre Company that’s called Haint So,” he says.

“We’re always looking for things that we can provide to the public to connect them to a sense of culture and regional identity and history, so that’s what the event grows out of.”

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