This weekend, area musician and festival organizer Jim Snyder once again defies Mother Nature with his West Virginia Winter Music Festival.
The festival is a fundraiser for the nonprofit organization of the same name which raises money for musicians in crisis, as well as assists with educational opportunities for aspiring musicians.
Now in its sixth year, the festival has expanded from only Saturday to Friday evening, as well, and boasts around 30 performers at five different venues in downtown Lewisburg.
“We practically take over downtown,” Snyder said. “Honestly, we get a lot of support from those venues in Lewisburg. They close off their shops for us. You can only get in if you buy a wristband.”
Admission to all shows is a $20 wristband.
Snyder said, “We have a little bit of everything. We’ve got bluegrass bands playing next-door to a metal group. There’s something for pretty much every taste, I think.”
Performers on the schedule include Emmalea Deal, The Kind Thieves, Albert Frank Perrone and the Half Bad Bluegrass Band.
Friday night at The Irish Pub in Lewisburg, the festival will celebrate the women of the festival with a night dedicated to female singer/songwriters. Saturday afternoon, “Mountain Stage” band leader Ron Sowell will host a songwriting workshop at the Greenbrier Valley Visitors Center.
“We’ve even got an all-ages venue,” Snyder said.
Saturday night, The Hub Teen Center will host a full schedule of bands and a special $5 cover for the all-ages crowd, who maybe can’t attend the full festival due to venue restrictions.
“It’s not every place,” Snyder said. “You just have to kind of use your head.”
The roots of the West Virginia Winter Music Festival formed almost 20 years ago, back when Snyder lived in Louisville, Kentucky.
“When I lived there, we had something called The Musicians Emergency Relief Fund,” he said. “I was on the board. We held events all year round, but we had about a million people to draw from, locally, and attracted crowds from southern Indiana.”
Snyder said there really wasn’t anything like that in West Virginia, nothing to help musicians who’d become ill, been injured or hit a rough patch, financially.
“After I came back to West Virginia, I did a couple of benefits for people in St. Albans,” Snyder said. “I had some friends who’d gone through some trouble.”
Often, when area musicians run into trouble, get sick or have some critical financial emergency, their local music community will put together a benefit or two to help.
Success varies, however.
Snyder said the catalyst for starting the West Virginia Winter Music Festival happened six years ago. A local drummer in Greenbrier County lost his home to a fire just before Christmas. He needed a lot of help, and Snyder helped organize a benefit for him.
The benefit was so successful that he organized another benefit the following year, calling it the Greenbrier Valley Music Festival.
“It was just starting to really bust at the seams,” he said.
People told him, “You know, you really need to make this thing big.”
So, now the West Virginia Winter Music Festival has nonprofit status, a broader mission and big ambitions.
He hopes to bring in more music and more people to help raise more money for musicians in need.
Last year, Snyder said the festival attracted a crowd of about 700 people. He thought they could easily do that this weekend, particularly if the weather cooperates.
“The weather is supposed to be good,” he laughed. “It’s going to be in the 30s, a heat wave!”
Actually, the current forecast for Lewisburg calls for temperatures in the 50s.
Notes: Friday night venues include The Asylum, Hill and Holler, The Irish Pub and The Sweet Shoppe. Saturday night venues also include The Hub Teen Center.