The southern Appalachian region is known for its abundance of talented musicians, playing everything from old-time to bluegrass to rock’n’roll. The folks at the Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park are proud to play a role in promoting this thriving music scene, and their annual Gathering in the Gap Music Festival has served as the venue for many well-known bands over the years. This year’s lineup continues the tradition with headliners The Seldom Scene, Ellis Dyson & the Shambles, and If Birds Could Fly.
For the festival’s twelfth year, the emphasis is once again on featuring quality bands offering a variety of Americana music. “Gathering in the Gap is part of our park’s on-going efforts to bring the history and culture of the region to life. The cultural traditions that are steeped in music have made the festival one of the largest annual events, ensuring these traditions remain strong for future generations,” said park manager Aaron Davis. This year there is no admission charge for the day-time festival events, so visitors can enjoy a wide variety of crafters, food vendors and entertainment for free, while tickets to the evening’s concert are only $15 when purchased in advance (under 12 are free).
The music starts at 10 a.m. throughout the museum grounds. The Acoustic Arbor Stage on the grounds of the museum will feature local favorites in a laid-back setting; it’s a good time to enjoy lunch or snacks available from one of the many food vendors on site. The Competition Stage will showcase a series of musicians competing on bluegrass mandolin, bluegrass guitar, banjo, fiddle, bluegrass band and old-time band, and is always a favorite for attendees and participants alike; you can register on site or in advance if you’d like to enter. The finalists in our Songwriting Competition will perform on the Main Stage beginning at 1 p.m.; these 10 musicians represent the best of the best of the pool of 38 applicants.
Craft booths are a big part of any festival, and the Gathering offers a wide variety of talented artisans showcasing their wares. All the booths feature hand-crafted, high-quality products made in the tri-state area, offering everything from pottery to dolls, including scarves, ornaments and jewelry in a variety of materials. Local artist Lisa Davis said, “I’ve been a festival crafter for several years. It’s a great opportunity to show my art to the community, and the festival is always well organized.” Take your pick of wood products for your home, quilts and paintings, as well as lovingly crafted items for babies and pets. Regional authors and musicians will have their books and music for sale as well.
Interested in theater? For the second year in a row the Shoestring Theatre Company will present an original play set in the beautiful mountains of Southwest Virginia. The Best Doctor in Town was inspired by the vitally important work done by the Remote Area Medical team for the people in Southwest Virginia who cannot afford medical care otherwise. It tells the true story of a beloved local doctor who just might be a serial killer, and has a cast that includes local actors as well as some unfamiliar faces. The play begins at 3 p.m. on the Competition stage.
Festival goers will want to stick around for the evening concert – with a lineup of three bands, there’s something to please every musical taste. First up at 5:45 p.m. is If Birds Could Fly from Southwest Virginia. With their haunting blend of retro country, soul and rock’n’roll, they’re a perennial favorite with the locals.
Following them at 7 p.m. is Ellis Dyson & the Shambles with their “whiskey-soaked, foot-stompin’ songs” that will bring a hint of New Orleans jazz to the Appalachian Mountains.
Headliners The Seldom Scene have been around since 1971, but their sound is timeless. Called one of the most influential bluegrass bands of their time, The Seldom Scene will guarantee a rousing ending to the evening; their set begins at 8:15 p.m. Tickets for the evening music are just $15 if purchased in advance through the event website at www.gatheringinthegap.org or by phone at (276) 523-1322, or $20 at the gate.
The Gathering in the Gap takes place on Poplar Hill in the heart of Big Stone Gap, Virginia, a Victorian neighborhood with gracious historic homes and gardens. This includes the museum itself, housed in the 1895 Ayers mansion since 1948. Festival goers are encourage to take a break from the summer weather and tour the museum, currently exhibiting the “Stitch in Time” Quilt Show.
“’Gathering in the Gap’ is a perfect blend of the region’s musical and historical heritage,” said Davis. “We’re looking forward to this year’s event being the best one yet!”