By DEREK HALSEY
For The Herald-Dispatch
In what is fast becoming one of the most unique music festivals in the Tri-State, the Fly-In Music Festival and accompanying West Virginia Guitar Championship takes place again this weekend for the fourth year.
Taking place on Aug. 23-24 at Robert Newlon Airport, located just north of Huntington, this year's Fly-In Music Festival will once again feature a great lineup of live music, airplane rides, skydiving demonstrations, Ohio River group kayaking experience and race, camping, running trails and much more.
The event will begin on Thursday evening with a relaxed potluck dinner and open jam session. Friday is when the Fly-In Music Festival really gets underway with live music beginning at 4 p.m. and lasting late into the night. The bands playing on Friday include headliners the Don Rigsby Band and Kenny and Amanda Smith. Others on the lineup include Appalachian Express, String Therapy, Bobby Maynard and Breakdown, the Big Possum String Band and Schultz Creek taking the music late into the evening.
Saturday morning features the group kayak, paddleboard and canoe float, which is free to all who have a Saturday festival ticket. Led by Evan Young of the Appalachian Boarding Company located in downtown Huntington, everyone is meeting at the festival grounds on the banks of the Ohio River at 9 a.m. The group float will take place at 10 a.m. Young has kayaks and more for rent, but you must call ahead of time at 304-693-2955. To create more water-based fun, after the group float, Young will host a race to the Ohio side of the river and back.
Saturday's music at the Fly-In Music Festival will begin at 3 p.m. and will feature headliners The Grascals, which now features local Tri-State musician Chris Davis; Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass and festival hosts The Bing Brothers featuring Jake Krack. Other acts will include Julie and Kelly Ray Davis, Mud Hole Control, the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys, Snakewinder, the Kentucky-fied Pickers and Ultra Sound playing late into the night.
On both nights at 7 p.m., a very special American flag skydive presentation will take place with Henry Barnes on the fiddle on Friday, Jake Krack on the fiddle on Saturday, skydivers and more.
Saturday will also feature the Robin Kessinger West Virginia State Flatpick Guitar Championship. The event will begin with a guitar workshop by Kessinger and special guests Robert Shafer, Johnny Staats, Dan Kessinger and Doug and Carl Hepler from 9 to 11 a.m. The guitar competition will then begin at 11 a.m. with a $10 entry fee. The winner of the contest will receive a brand new West Virginia-built Thompson guitar and paid entry into the National Flatpick Guitar Championship in Winfield, Kansas. More information can be found at email@example.com or 304-593-5650.
Tickets prices for the Fly-In Music Festival range from $50 for the whole weekend to $30 for a daily ticket and $20 per night for primitive camping. Full camping hookups are $35 but spots are going fast. Thursday's welcome ceremony, potluck dinner and jamming are free.
The Fly-in Music Festival is organized by Carl Bailey, who runs the Robert Newlon Airport, local businessman and musician Robbie Keyser, and Tim Corbett, bass player for the Bing Brothers featuring Jake Krack.
"People don't realize how much it takes behind the scenes to put on something like this as we are working on it year round," said Tim Corbett. "We have learned something each of the four years as to how to improve this event and it is always an evolving and growing thing. We started out as a one-day event with about eight bands playing the first year on stage on a trailer with hay bales in front of it. Four years later, we have a permanent 20-by-30 foot stage with 20 bands playing on it over two days."
Another improvement to the overall event has been the help of local sponsors.
"This past June, we did interviews on four of their eight radio stations. We have been doubling our crowd size every year, going from 300 to 400 the first year to about 1,500 last year," Corbett said. "If you show 1,500 people a fantastic time, then you hopefully have that many folks talking positively about our festival going forward."
The good news is that the 2019 Fly-In Music Festival will feel good to the ears of the music fan and the body and mind of those wanting some late summer fun without the high heat.
"The weather is going to be great this weekend," Corbett said. "We are supposed to drop about 20 degrees or so by festival time. That is awesome as we have been hit pretty hard with this heat wave. Everyone is looking forward to having some big fun in a beautiful place."