The Eighth Annual Appalachian String Band Music Festival,
July 30-August 3, 1997
Camp Washington-Carver, Clifftop, West Virginia
by Ryan Thomson
This old timey music party has the reputation for being the premier event of its type.
Everywhere in the USA that I've traveled this year I've overheard conversations during the
old time southern jams about folks looking forward to "Clifftop." Fortunately I was already
in West Virginia at the end of July since I was attending classes at Augusta Heritage Center.
I missed the first 3 days of the festival because I was still at Augusta, but I caught the tail
end grand finale on Saturday night.
West Virginia is a long way from my home in New Hampshire, but soon after my arrival I
spotted old time music buddies from all around the country: Florida; California;
Massachusetts; and even New Hampshire. My traveling partners and I set up a tent and
campsite which was a mere formality since we didn't expect to do much sleeping. There
was simply too much good music and dancing going on and we didn't want to miss any of it!
I wandered through the extended campground which was in a beautiful wooded site with
lots of trees, shade, and grassy areas. On the main stage a old time string band contest
featured lots of excellent music while there were somewhere in the neighborhood of two
dozen old time jams going on simultaneously in the campground at all times. Many of the
top old time style fiddlers and clawhammer banjo players in the country were in
attendence at varous campsites. Now and then I heard bits of other styles of music such as
bluegrass, cajun, Irish, and Eastern European, but the major focus was good old southern
style stringband music.
I was happy to see a number of young kids playing music, and also noted the presence of
numerous senior southern style pickers. There were slow jams, fast jams, gospel singing,
old time song sessions, virtuosic fiddling, and lots of nice folks sharing tunes with others.
Cloggers carried their portable dancing boards with them and settled in at camp sites with
energeticly paced music.
The Saturday night dance was high energy with southern squares and line dances, and even
a New England contra or two, but the music was all in a driving, southern style rhythm
groove. There was a mix of experienced dancers and high spirted beginners and everyone
seemed to enjoying themselves immensely. I danced until I was soaking wet, gradually
working my way closer to the stage so I could simultaneously dance and observe the
musicians and callers in action.
I had a great time and hope to return next year. I overheard folks in the camp ground
saying that there was a large increase in the number of attendees from 1996 to 1997 due to
the festival's popularity. There were numerous events which I didn't have the opportunity
to attend, but which included: dance contests; instrumental contests; concerts; and
workshops in: story telling; ballad singing; dancing and more.
For more information contact: Camp Washington-Carver, HC 35, Box 5, Clifftop, WV
25831-9601, or visit the website.
Written by Ryan Thomson