GLENVILLE, W. Va. – The third Thursday in June, people from far and wide descend on Glenville’s State Folk Festival for the music but stay for the nostalgia.
“What we really stand for are the traditional ways of doing things,” David O’Dell, President of the Folk Festival said. “Traditional music, traditional crafts, storytelling, ballad singing. Really it’s the old ways, things you would have seen here 100 years ago or more.”
The festival began in 1950 as a class project assigned by Dr. Patrick Gainer for his Appalachian Folklore course he taught at West Virginia University.
Today at the event, one of the 2,000 to 3,000 O’Dell estimated to visit can find various crafts, food, banjo and fiddle contests and concerts featuring traditional and more modern music on Main St. and the adjacent Glenville State College campus.
Some made their first trip to the festival this weekend.
Donned in a dress and hat consistent with the style 100 years ago, Enid Saville, 91, of Romney made her first trip after she was selected as a “Belle” for Hampshire County.
A Belle is an honorary guest to the festival who, among other things, is past her 70th birthday and “possesses qualities consistent with the spirit of a pioneer woman.
Saville said she loved the festival and discovered an extra perk which comes with being a Belle after participating in the cake walk.
“A gentleman just won a cake and he gave it to me. He said ‘I wanted to give it to the prettiest lady here.’ I said I think he made a mistake,” she said with a grin.
Others have been coming to the festival for many years, especially for the Square Dance held on Saturday in which at least 100 participants take to the dance floor on Court Street.
Bill Ohse, a resident of Ripley, said he has been coming to the festival for 22 years to participate in what he calls the “granddaddy of them all,” as far as square dances go.
Ohse served as one of the night’s callers and offered tips on how to perfect the art of keeping dancers in harmony.
“The idea is to keep the dancers in time with the music and in time with your calling, all together,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun when it all clicks together. Everyone has a good time. It’s fun.”
The 65th State Folk Festival marked the first with O’Dell serving as president. Moving forward, he would like to see more exhibits added.
“One of the things I would like to see, is to bring in more of the traditional crafts and demonstrations,” he said. “Things like soap making, apple butter making, things like that a lot of people really don’t see and experience anymore.”
Those interested in potentially bringing those exhibits to next year’s festival, or those wanting more general information can visit the festival’s website here.