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Phamily Reunion made for roots music lovers

Aug. 29, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

This Labor Day weekend, local musicians Nellie and Scott Coffman will host the second annual Phamily Reunion in the New River Gorge area near Fayetteville, W.Va.

The event will bring together music lovers who will camp, share stories about this summer's festival adventures, raft the New River and listen to a host of bands based here in the Tri-State.

The Coffmans are members of the group Hillbilly Carnival. Other bands scheduled to perform at the Phamily Reunion include Big Rock and the Candy Mountain Boys, Qiet, 600 Lbs Of Sin, Beggars Clan, Information, Fletchers Grove, Fiery Deep, Blistered Nifkin, Alex Faulkner, Sly Roosevelt, Another Roadside Attraction, Red Lights and HoboClay.com.

The Phamily Reunion will take place Aug. 30-Sept. 2 at Cantrell's Ultimate Rafting Company in Fayetteville. Tickets are available for a $50 donation per adult for a three-day pass, which includes camping, and $20 for a three day pass for children. Adult day passes are $30 and $15 for children. Kids 10 and under get in free.

More information can be found by searching the words 'Our Phamily Reunion 2013' on Facebook. To book a special rafting trip during the weekend, call Cantrell Rafting at 304-663-2762. Directions can be found at www.cantrellultimaterafting.com. Nellie Coffman can be reached at 304-932-7671.

"I started the 'West Virginia's Funkadelic Festivarians' page on Facebook a few years ago and surprisingly it grew to over 1,000 members," said Nellie Coffman. "It's a place where we all talk about festivals and local shows. Last year we tried to get a lot of the members of that page and our friends together for an end-of-year, around the campfire gathering where we swapped stories about the festivals we attended and the shows that we had seen around town. So, since we were going to have all of those people together, our band Hillbilly Carnival decided to play. Then, bands like Beggars Clan stepped forward and said, 'That sounds like a fun time. We'd like to play, too.' Then, their buddies, members of the group Information, called in and wanted to play. I said, 'Really? Wow, this is crazy. Sure. Let's do it.'

"To my surprise, after three months of planning, we had 10 or 11 bands that came forward," continued Coffman. "I think a lot of it was about people trying to close the gap, which was always my goal, even when I started the Festivarian Facebook page. When I started getting people together, there would be a band that would want to get to know another band because they had never met them. This is a great opportunity for all of us to get to know one another."

Last year's inaugural Phamily Reunion was successful, so the Coffmans decided to move it to a new venue at Cantrell's Rafting Company. The Reunion will be family friendly and will include a children's area and a children's parade and concert, where musicians will teach the kids a song that they will all perform onstage. There will also be a bring-your-own dish potluck dinner and pig roast at 2 p.m. Sunday as well as yoga, Poi workshops and airbrush face painting.

The musical couple has learned a thing or two about festivals because they go to about 12 events a year locally and around the country.

"I was going out west when I met Nellie," said Scott Coffman. "I was going on a festival run, what they call the 'Bluegrass Circuit.' You go from the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado to the Oregon Country Fair and then make your way back to Rockygrass in Colorado, along those lines. We've been doing it for a while. It's what we like to do. We're weekend warriors as far as what festivals can we get to, and a couple times a year we might be able to take a week off and go somewhere like Colorado or Florida.

"This year we went to the Suwannee Springfest in Florida, the All Good Festival, the Appalachian Uprising, the Appalachian String Band Festival, otherwise known as Clifftop, the Vandalia Gathering, GrinFest, ArtFest and others," continued Coffman. "With a handful of festivals now, we're playing them with our band and that's a new twist on it. We're not only festivating, we're picking and grinning all of the way around the campfire and sometimes onstage."

Because every festival is different, with diverse grooves and surroundings found at each one, that is where the stories come from that are told at summer's end.

"Springfest was awesome," said Coffman. "Peter Rowan was on fire. He played with a lot of different people and it was great. Leftover Salmon was there and they did a really good set as did the Traveling McCourys. The Telluride Festival takes place in a totally picturesque setting. It's what you would picture in a movie and then some. It's absolutely a dream world of a town with box canyons and big, snow-capped mountains on every side of you. And, it's a pristine valley that you're in with all of this killer music, and the altitude makes the beer work that much better. I'd say that is probably the best festival venue that I've ever been to.

"But, as far as campground picking goes, the local Appalachian Uprising has our biggest Faerie Camp of the year," added Coffman. "That's when the biggest quantity of our friends come out because it is so close to home. People with kids can still come out and make it and it's not so far off as to be unobtainable. A lot of people show up so it is always a big camp with a lot of fun and big jams."