BYOB- Bring your own banjo to these down-home mountain music fests

What’s more fun than a jam session beneath the trees? Grab your instrument of choice and get to pickin’ at one of these down-home music fests in West Virginia.

1. Vandalia Gathering

Memorial Day weekend, State Capitol Complex in Charleston

Elder statesmen and young upstarts alike converge on the State Capitol grounds to perform and compete at this 2-day celebration of traditional Appalachian music.

Stroll the beautiful grounds of the Capitol and join in on an impromptu jam session with other old-time fiddlers and pickers. You can enjoy music and dancing outdoors all day long and evening concerts in the State Theater.


2. Music and Dance Theme Weeks

All summer, Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins

Davis & Elkins College’s Augusta Heritage Center sponsors theme-week classes all summer long, which are dedicated to preserving and sharing traditional Appalachian music, dance and folklore. Choose from themes of Cajun/Creole Week, Early Country Music Week, Blues and Swing Week, Irish Week, Bluegrass Week, Old-Time Week, or Vocal Week.

Bonus: Theme Week classes are held in conjunction with Augusta’s craft, arts and folklore classes so you can double up on your mountain music learnin’!


3. Pickin’ in the Park

1st and 3rd Sunday in September and October, Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park

Beginners and professionals alike are invited to grab your favorite acoustic instrument and board the Island Belle Sternwheeler to Blennerhassett Island to perform. (Pickin’ in the Park pickers can get their free sternwheeler tickets at the Blennerhassett Museum.)


4. Appalachian String Band Festival

August, Camp Washington-Carver in Clifftop

The granddaddy of all bluegrass/old-time music festivals, Appalachian String Band Festival is a 5-day gathering of more than 3,000 musicians and friends.

Join in for the contests, concerts, workshops, square dancing and hymn singing. Over the years, players from more than 20 foreign countries and 48 states have shown up to strum and relax. It’s a great opportunity to share your music with an international audience— and learn a few things from them as well!


5. Augusta Festival

August, Elkins 

The Augusta Festival is an annual celebration of music, dance and craft, with a craft fair and demonstrations, live music on various stages, workshops, jam sessions and children’s activities.


6. Pickin’ in Parsons Bluegrass Festival

August, Five River Camp Ground

Pitch your tent along the banks of the Shavers Fork River and pick your guitar by the campfire’s light. Want to learn something? Sign up for classes and more! If you play guitar, mandolin, fiddle, bass or dobro, you’re qualified to jam!


This post was last updated on July 27, 2020