MORGANTOWN - The 35th annual Gardner Winter Music Festival blends old-time music fans from across a range of ages, abilities and addresses.
More than 600 people, from seasoned performers to people who prefer to just listen, are expected at this weekend's festival.
"It's my winter fix of old-time music," said Bill Kimmons of Charleston, who is one-third of the a cappella group Bare Bones.
The festival features nonstop concurrent stage performances, workshops and jam sessions, just the way its founder wanted.
Worley Gardner, a Monongalia County native, grew up playing guitar and fiddle, graduated to banjo and dulcimer and mandolin, and later became a caller at dances. He built dulcimers and played at the Smithsonian Institution and on CBS Radio.
"Worley wanted to do something special for musicians to break up the winter," said Bobby Taylor, a Charleston fiddler who knew Gardner most of his life.
"He said, 'Why don't we just have a big pickin' session and break up the winter blues by getting people out and having this wonderful big weekend party where we just get together and play music?' "
Taylor, a nationally certified judge of fiddle contests and library manager for the state archives in the Division of Culture and History, remembers coming to Morgantown for West Virginia University's Mountaineer Week long before Gardner started the Winter Music Festival.
"There'd be wonderful parties up there, and Morgantown always was a little hot spot of heritage music even prior to the Gardner Music Festival, and that's why it's become a beautiful venue for Worley to start this wonderful festival," he said.
Some of the performers come from within a 300-mile radius of Morgantown. Many attend just the dance on Saturday night.
"Every time there's a festival, it's like a reunion," Kimmons said. "Most of the people all know the same tunes and love playing them and just love being together with their friends and sharing the energy that music gives you.
"It's a really good time for beginners to come or people who want to get a little bit better or be more involved," he added. "It's a lot of fun."
Kimmons has taught workshops, performed and jammed at the festival, but he's probably most recognized as emcee of the stage performances.