Saturday marked the second and final day of HoustonFest 2014, bringing an even larger crowd to Felts Park in Galax, Virginia. The Generation Bluegrass Youth Project opened the Main Stage followed by the Snyder Family who could be seen jamming and making quest appearances throughout the day. Wayne Henderson & VA Luthier Band, The Church Sisters, Blue Highway, the Boxcars, and the Meyer Family Band rounded out the afternoon set.
The HoustonFest organization and spirit—to support youth interested in bluegrass music, preserve our cultural heritage and encourage community building—came together in one place during the awards show. HoustonFest organizers extended the scholarship this year to honor organizations that are keeping the festival’s mission alive.
Another addition was the first annual Ralph D. Epperson Musical Heritage Award presented by Deborah Epperson Stringer. Ralph D. Epperson, the founder of WPAQ radio station was a true pioneer of early radio in southern Appalachia. The story of his work has been collected and presented in documentary format by Jordan Nance in the film Broadcast—A Man and His Dreams. The award supports and honors an individual committed to continuing traditional string music traditions. The first winner was Trajan Wellington from Jefferson, North Carolina. Trajan is one of Eric Hardin’s banjo students and hopes to use his newly awarded banjo to continue learning Scruggs-style technique.
Following the sincerely moving awards ceremony, one of the best American country music acts to date took the stage. The White’s—father, Buck, and sisters, Sharon and Cheryl—exchanged jokes with fiddler Steve Thomas, gave the crowd the best family harmony has to offer, and welcomed special guest Ricky Skaggs to the stage. A crowd favorite, The White’s autograph line remained the length of a fire truck for an entire hour after their show.
Houston’s instrument, the banjo, dominated the conclusion of HoustonFest. Lonesome River Band’s energized set featuring Sammy Shelor offered a glimpse of their forthcoming album. Shelor, being from the nearby Meadows of Dan, noted the festival allowed him to reunite with friends… to which the entire audience responded with enthusiasm.
The much anticipated “Banjo Jubilation” was hosted by Virginia State Folklorist Jon Lohman. The set featured Sammy Shelor, Jens Kruger and Mark Johnson—all winners of Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass Music. Intimate and informal questions posed by Lohman between songs continued a tradition of sharing and storytelling at bluegrass festivals. HoustonFest 2014 closed with a special set from the talented Kruger Brothers.
Mark your calendar for this time next year as we anticipate HoustonFest 2015! (And HoustonFest isn’t the only thing that happens at Felts Park—The Galax Fiddler’s Convention is just around the corner!)