The Huntington Music and Arts Festival celebrates 10 years this week. It’s a big milestone for a festival that really just began as a daylong concert in the park featuring 15 local bands.
Founder and organizer Ian Thornton explained, “In 2010, when this thing began, we just thought of it as a way to shine some light on the regional music scene.”
Thornton said Huntington had a lot of good musicians, but many of them scarcely saw the light of day. They only played the bars.
“Playing only late night really cut off a huge chunk of the city,” he said. “This was just a way to bring some of them into the daylight.”
The festival’s high point is still the Saturday concert at the Ritter Park Amphitheater in Huntington. This year’s edition includes 25 scheduled bands, among them local favorites like ONA, Hello June and The Parachute Brigade, as well as area music scene staples like Matt Mullins and the Bringdowns, Shelem and Scroungehound.
The festival will showcase bands from the surrounding area, including a couple of performers from Ohio and Kentucky and features a short performance by Tony Award-winning actor Michael Cerveris and his Americana band, Loose Cattle.
Cerveris grew up in Huntington.
Thornton said the festival has grown exponentially since it began. In the beginning, it was largely just a music festival, but what’s offered has gradually expanded.
“We have a 72-hour film challenge now,” he said. “We have comedy. We have a much greater representation of area visual arts.”
The hope is to keep expanding, keep offering more and keep showing off the region’s artists and musicians.
Organizing the festival is in starts and stops for Thornton, who also helps to manage the career of up and coming Americana star Tyler Childers.
“My plate is kind of full with that,” he said. “But I have the benefit of working with some good people, so it’s definitely a team effort to make this fun.”
Thornton said the festival is a great place to meet up with people, bring the family and just enjoy the day.
“Just come prepared to take everything in,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of great music, great art and local vendors. Come out and have a good time.”