New Skyline Productions, Inc. is excited to announce it will present “Skyline on the River,” a tribute to the original Skyline Bluegrass Festival on Saturday, July 16, from 5 to 10 p.m. in the Amphitheatre located in Island Park, Ronceverte.
The original festival took place on the Blake Family mountaintop farm overlooking the Greenbrier River above the town of Ronceverte from 1976 – 1985. Bill Blake and Bill Simms, both of Ronceverte, were the promoters. Records show that between 10,000-15,000 individuals (many camping out) from across the United States gathered on this mountaintop farm to enjoy this three-day event.
It featured some of the greatest names in bluegrass, along with up-and-coming artists and an array of guitar, banjo and fiddle pickers gathered around campfires playing to the wee hours of the morning. A wide variety of cultures (young and old alike) were united over what they all had in common – music! And good music it was. The festival’s lineup over the years included the likes of the legendary Bill Monroe and The Bluegrass Boys, John Hartford, Doc and Merle Watson, Ralph Stanley and The Clinch Mountain Boys, Seldom Scene, J.D. Crowe and The New South, Norman and Nancy Blake, The Doug Dillard Band, The Osborne Brothers, John Prine, Elmer Bird, Billy Bowden and The Bluegrass Connection, The Buffalo Gals (all females and unique in bluegrass music history), along with a host of other stellar local and national artists.
The original Skyline Bluegrass Festival was formed to preserve and advance the tradition of Bluegrass and Newgrass music in WV. It was the first and largest in the state. Admission was only $12! New Skyline Productions, Inc. is committed to embracing and continuing this purpose. This new 501(c)3 has been formed to bring this widely popular event back to the River City in its outdoor Amphitheatre situated on the beautiful Greenbrier River. The stage is covered, but there is a nearby rain location (Clifford Armory in Ronceverte) secured in case of inclement weather. For this first year, there will be no admission charge.
Unfortunately, several of the bluegrass greats that appeared at the original festival have gone up to the big bluegrass stage in the sky. However, the day will feature five high-energy groups that are comprised of local and regional musicians. They include award winning bluegrass bands High Fidelity (based out of Nashville, TN) and Coaltown Dixie (all females heralding out of the Appalachian hills in East Kentucky). Newcomers to the national scene is Troubadour Blue. This innovative trio is composed of siblings Brenna and Eli Wheeler (of Nashville, TN) and Daniel Kim Ethridge (Austin, TX). They are known for “marrying the motifs of modern bluegrass with the poeticism found in Nashville’s songwriting scene.” Award winning and Mill Point, WV native Richard Hefner, and The Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys have been playing together for over 50 years. This bluegrass quartet features Dave Bing, Blaine Sprouse, and “Black Mountain Bluegrass Girl” Joanna Burt-Kinderman. All hail from and are proud to be West Virginians. Rounding out the roster will be the infamous Ramp Supper Band (back from a much too long sabbatical). Formed back in the ‘70s, members include David and Henrietta Crandall, Buffalo “Bob Foster” and WV’s celebrated son, Richard Hefner. In addition, the festival is proud to present special guest violinist extraordinaire, Adam DeGraff.
Ronceverte, a historical river and railroad community, has embarked on a well thought out restoration plan to transform the town into an important cultural and historical destination. Ronceverte believes this event will play an important part in the town’s ongoing revitalization. Decisions are to start slow, be successful, and then grow the event with each year. Food and beverages will be available for purchase by local vendors. In addition, the public is encouraged to attend a photographic exhibit The Skyline Bluegrass Festival “Peace, Love, and Bluegrass Music” 1976-1985. The exhibit, curated by The West Virginia Music Hall of Fame, features the amazing work of the official festival photographer, Pat Bauserman.
The opening reception is Friday, June 25, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the West Virginia Museum of Music in the Charleston Town Center (www.wvmhof.com). The event will feature two live bands and refreshments will be served.
A smaller version of this exhibit will open First Friday, July 1, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Visitors Center in downtown Lewisburg. Richard Hefner and the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys will perform. Come enjoy an evening out, awesome photographs, and refreshments. This exhibit is funded through the generous support of The West Virginia Humanities Council, The Jeanne C. and Lawson W. Hamilton Family Foundation, and The James F.B. Peyton Fund.