In recent years, there has been much chatter about the future of Glenville's annual festival. Newcomers still enjoy the music and square dancing, but old-timers have seen a shift away from the original focus of the event.
In a recent interview with Dr. David O'Dell, the newly elected president of the WV State Folk Festival, he expressed an overall desire to return to the purpose that founder Patrick Gainer had in 1950 when the festival first began. According to the Folk Festival website, that purpose was "to preserve the remnants of West Virginia traditional life and culture to the end that citizens may appreciate and respect the achievements of their forefathers."
"It's not about the size of the festival," said O'Dell, noting that Glenville really can't handle an excessively large crowd of people and cars, "It's about the quality of the overall event."
In recent years, some of the vendors have not really had that traditional Appalachia focus and while Dr. O'Dell doesn't want to discourage anyone from taking part, he wants to keep with the intended theme of it and not have a carnival atmosphere downtown.
People come from all over the United States to take part in and watch the evening square dances that happen during Folk Festival.
Last year O'Dell spoke with one woman who had come all the way from the Pacific Coast to experience the annual event.
But Folk Festival is more than just square dancing. Out of towners can enjoy good food like beans and cornbread and slaw dogs. They can take part in the fiddle and banjo contest, listen to some Appalachian storytellers or get in on the popular spelling bee. This year, in addition to cornhole, O'Dell wants to bring back a horseshoe pitching area.
In regards to the dance platform, Dr. O'Dell says they hope to get permission from the city to move it back to the street between United Bank and the park, where it had been for many years. Complaints about its recent placement behind the park were heard over the past two years as the music and dance calling ended up competing with folks having informal jams behind the bank, at the Conrad Motel and on the steps of the old Wagon Wheel restaurant.
Another change folks may notice deals with the Country Store and Museum. The new committee hopes to be able to open the store, which became the Folk Festival headquarters in 1973, occasionally on Saturdays or when there are other things going on in town. For instance, The Country Store and Museum will be open on Halloween night during trick-or-treating.
Dr. O'Dell, who plays the banjo as well as other stringed instruments, envisions folks getting together to play a little music in the store on those days while giving visitors more opportunities to walk through and purchase music CDs, t-shirts, old fashion candy, etc.
Bringing in a little extra money would be helpful to the event's planners. Each year they get a grant of $5,000, but that money is allocated to maintenance and improvements of the old bank building and the Country Store. The committee has considered selling advertising space along the square dance platform. They continue to look for other grants that could help with expenses and are happy to accept any donations from the public.
A square dance fundraiser is in the planning stages now and more information will be presented as it becomes available. It is tentatively set for sometime just before Thanksgiving.
Contributions can be made on the website with a credit card or through Pay Pal at www.wvstatefolkfestival.com or by mailing a check to WV State Folk Festival, PO Box 362, Glenville, WV 26351. All donations are appreciated.
The Folk Festival Committee will be meeting regularly on the third Weds. of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the Country Store until further notice. Once winter sets in, the time and location may be changed. The public is welcome to attend these meetings.
Other newly elected officers include: Debbie Farmer, Vice President; Bruce Farmer, Treasurer; and Monica Bame, Secretary. Past presidents Ginny Hawker and Sadie Keble continue to volunteer their time, in addition to others who want to see the annual festival continue.
Dr. David O'Dell is a professor of science at Glenville State College and a native of Spencer, WV. He has been involved with the music scheduling portion of the Folk Festival since the 1990's, but under his leadership in 2014, he hopes to see the entire event turn back to a more traditional feel.