Because of lingering concerns about COVID-19, West Virginians didn’t get much of a Vandalia Gathering this year. We aren’t getting an Appalachian String Band Festival, either.
So when I got an offer to come to Allegheny Echoes, in Pocahontas County, I could scarcely turn it down. It was a chance to go see and hear live old-time music and visit Marlinton, the home of the annual West Virginia Roadkill Cook-off.
When Allegheny Echoes organizers gave me a couple of options for when I might visit during the week-long event, they mentioned a “wild meat night.”
As an old news friend used to say, “Where there’s food, there’s news.”
I couldn’t pass it up, so I made the roughly three-hour drive into Marlinton, checked in at the Marlinton Motor Inn, and then was repeatedly knocked over by some really top-shelf fiddle, banjo and mandolin playing.
There were little concerts during the day, but things really took off after dark. That’s when the entire motor inn turned into a pint-sized version of the string band festival, with small groups of musicians gathering outside of different motel rooms to play tunes and maybe have a few beers.
While at Allegheny Echoes, I spent a little time talking to banjo picker Richard Hefner and his ensemble about life during the pandemic. Like a lot of performers, he’d been stalled for the better part of a year, and was just getting back into playing around people.
“The worst part of it,” he said, “was there was a good long time there when I didn’t even want to pick up anything to play at all.”
As the music played on into the night, a dedicated crew fed the crowd a late dinner of pork, venison, clams and something I’m about 90% sure were meatballs in barbecue sauce — 90% sure.
Between the afternoon show and the evening jams, I wandered around Marlinton, got a Hawaiian pizza at Alfredo’s Italian & Greek restaurant and then visited the 4th Avenue Gallery of Fine Arts & Crafts, an artist co-op located inside a former C&O Railroad depot.
I poked my head in at the Pocahontas County Opera House and admired the bandstand that stood outside of it.
Through all of Pocahontas County, I had nothing like a cell phone signal, though area businesses, the local library and the motor inn had Wi-Fi. I couldn’t place a call, but I could post whatever I wanted to Facebook.
In the morning, I grabbed coffee and a muffin at Dirtbean Café and Bike Shop. Coffee, pastries, ice cream and light meals were downstairs. Bicycles and bicycle repair was upstairs.
I didn’t get a bike, but the coffee was pretty good. The beans were local, roasted just up the road in Richwood at the Cherry River Roasting Company.
The owner seemed harried the morning I visited. She was tired and having to replace the air conditioner. She was also a little anxious about the future.
“It’s hard to get enough people who want to work,” she told me.
Other places to eat
- Appalachia Kitchen
- Foxfire Grille (Snowshoe)
- Snowshoe Mountain Resort (Snowshoe)
- Falls of Hills Creek
- (Monongahela National Forest)
- Greenbrier River Trail
- (Trailhead in Marlinton)
- Blues, Brews & BBQs Festival, July 31-Aug. 1 (Snowshoe)
- Appalachian Heritage Day, Aug. 7 (Cass Scenic Railroad State Park)
- Watoga State Park Mountain Trail Challenge, Aug. 14
- (Watoga State Park)