HUNTINGTON — There are several bluegrass festivals in West Virginia, but there's only one you can experience from the upper troposphere.
This weekend was the 2019 Fly-In Music Festival at the Robert Newlon Airpark in Huntington. It's a bluegrass festival that encourages people to bring their airplanes, paragliders, ultralight planes or gyrocopters. The three-day festival, which concluded Saturday, offered food and clothing vendors, paddleboarding, skydiving and plenty of banjos.
Now in its fourth year, the festival continues to grow thanks to word of mouth, said Tim Corbett, the festival's organizer. In addition to managing all the logistics for the festival, Corbett takes breaks to play upright bass for Don Rigsby and the Bing Brothers.
"It's hard to describe the atmosphere we can create here," Corbett said. "Once people come and experience it, those people usually return and spread the word."
Corbett said the festival came together among friends who shared interests in aviation and for listening to bluegrass music. The idea to marry the hobbies together came from Carl Bailey, owner of the airpark. Bailey is a longtime friend of the Bing Brothers, who are the festival's main band, Corbett said.
Although it rained some Friday, the weekend offered good conditions for flying and skydiving, said Renau Lucas, West Virginia Skydivers' drop zone manager. Strong winds prevented people from skydiving for several hours Saturday, but mostly everyone who wanted to jump got the opportunity eventually, she said.
Lucas, who has completed 30 skydives, said there was a mix of people jumping, ranging from first-timers to experts with more than 100 jumps.
Maranda Hollingsworth and Cody Gibson, both of Salt Rock, did their first tandem skydive Saturday. They have wanted to do so for more than two years and finally decided to do it while visiting the festival.
Gibson, who had never been on a plane, said it was a new way to look at the world. Hollingsworth said the sound of bluegrass music could be heard faintly from the sky until reaching the ground.
"I was so nervous until I got up there, and then all my nerves went away," Hollingsworth said. "It was awesome."
Saturday was also a beautiful morning to paddleboard or kayak along the Ohio River, said Brooke and Evan Young, co-owners and founders of the Appalachian Boarding Co. in Huntington. The couple host a float-in to the festival each year, with about 25 people taking to the river. They plan to host a race on the river during next year's festival, beginning in Green Bottom and ending near the airfield.
Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.