Second Annual Brew Skies Festival is a Hit
By: Ellis Boury III
The Parsons Advocate
Canaan Valley Resort was filled with the sounds of music and joyous crowds this past weekend, as Mountain State Brewing Company hosted their second annual Brew Skies Festival, celebrating the music and brewing heritage of West Virginia. Hundreds attended the event, held below the main lodge at the Resort, with craft vendors and an additional music stage set up beneath the nearby pavilion. Music and activities were scheduled both Friday and Saturday, with performances Friday beginning at 3 p.m. and lasting past midnight, and events Saturday beginning in the early morning and lasting well into the night.
Brew Skies offered a wide range of music, activities, and of course, craft beers. Six breweries with locations across the state participated in the event, including Mountain State Brewing Company – who organized and sponsored the event, Lost River Brewing Company, Blackwater Brewing Company, Morgantown Brewing Company, Bridge Brew Works, and Chestnut Brew Works. The craft brewing company Brewstel also took part, by offering home-brewing demonstrations and equipment.
Many local artisans and businesses set up vendor stalls within the area under the pavilion, which was the designated area as well to sample available food and drink. Food was provided by Canaan Valley State Park, El Gran Sabor, and Tip Top Coffee, of Thomas. Additionally, a “kids’ corner’ area had been set aside as a space for children to try out different activities and play creatively. The Brew Skies festival is a family-friendly event, and it was apparent that efforts were made to provide entertainment for people of as many different ages and interests as possible. Children under the age of 14 were allowed into the event for free, encouraging families to bring their children and experience the fun and music together.
Other activities that were intermixed into the days’ music, beer-tasting, and socializing included a nature hike Saturday morning with Mike Powell, a local conservationist, a five mile morning trail run, and a performance of “Roads and Rails of Woody Guthrie,” by Mick Souter in the afternoon Saturday.
Some twenty-eight bands played at the event, either on the main stage, set up on the hillside below the resort pool, or in the pavilion set just back from there, where the craft vendors had their stalls and tables. The main stage was surrounded by a beautiful, panoramic view of the mountainous countryside of Canaan Valley. The setting was perfect for the traditional Appalachian sounds that were mixed into some of the musicians’ performances. A wide range of musical styles were represented, with a focus on rock & roll, bluegrass, and country & western, but also with other influences such as reggae, soul, blues, and even electronic music.
Headlining musical guests this year were The Pimps of Joytime, J. Roddy Walston and the Business, Grayson Capps and the Lost Cause Minstrels, and Luella and the Sun. Each of these groups had something unique to bring to the table, and the crowd went wild after each band performed. Both of the late acts played well past the stated end-time of the show – to the approval of all who stayed to watch and listen.
Friday evening played host to Nashville’s Luella and the Sun, with listeners cheering especially for lead singer Luella’s powerful, soulful voice. The final acts of the evening had all been moved under the pavilion due to the weather taking a turn for the worse. The crowd’s spirits weren’t the least bit dampened by the driving rain however, and soon the Brooklyn-based Pimps of Joytime had practically the entire crowd moving to the beats of their very danceable style of soul-filled funky rocking.
Saturday’s weather proved to make up for the sogginess of the first night, with guests arriving back at the festival site early in the morning and staying through into the night. Saturday night saw southern country rocker Grayson Capps take the stage with his band, bringing his unique voice and style forward with strong, hard-rock tunes layered with his more traditional country and folk influences. Closing out the night, and the festival, were J. Roddy Walston and the Business, who jammed out their unique style, highlighted by the excellent keyboard work of J. Roddy himself, as the crowd cheered, swayed, danced, and laughed along.
Several acts throughout both days also performed classic folk and country tunes, well-known to the audience, creating a very positive response. Rasta Rafiki, who played Saturday evening, even played a cover of “Take me Home, Country Roads,” the classic by John Denver that sings of the rolling country roads of West Virginia. Their cover was accompanied by many members of the crowd joining in to sing along.
The sense of this being a local, community-oriented festival was strong, with a very open feel to the environment, happy people of all ages around, and friendly staff and volunteers all around. Family and friends alike would feel welcome here, and there was enough good music, fun times, and quality handcrafted beers for all. This annual festival may have a bright future, should Mountain State wish to continue on with it; large crowds took in a quality lineup of music and brews that left many attendees satisfied and wanting more.
The skill and care that is put into a person’s art, be that art brewing, writing music, or any creative activity for that matter, shows the character of that person. Through this festival’s showcasing of local craftspeople, the character of an entire state comes through, and this theme of recognizing and celebrating the heritage of West Virginia and its people is definitely a part of what Brew Skies is all about. Wild and wonderful, family, fun and friends, beer and beats – all came together to spend the weekend in Canaan.