The West Virginia State Folk Festival was initiated in 1950 by Dr. Patrick Gainer “to preserve the remnants of West Virginia traditional life and culture to the end that citizens may appreciate and respect the achievements of their forbearers.”
Each year the volunteer festival committee dedicates these few days to rolling back the hands of time and “progress” by presenting musicians, dancers, singers and crafts people who remind us of the beauty, grace and fun that life in these hills has always held for so many of us.
The West Virginia State Folk Festival is a great time to look for beginnings of traditions we have come to anticipate. The festival itself began on the Glenville college campus as an outgrowth of a summer class in folklore, taught by Dr. Patrick Gainer. From an afternoon exhibit and evening program, it grew – and grew.
From the first year Dr. Gainer had used Jane Singleton and others as resource persons. In 1957 he invited Glenville and Gilmer County to join in the planning. Many new ideas came to fruition.
Other ‘firsts’ in 1957 include square dancing on the street (unchanged currently) and a parade on Saturday. After missing a parade in 1978, the Glenville Lions Club took over the planning of the parade. The parade now continues each year under their leadership.
During the first decade, the West Virginia State Folk Festival did not have a formal structure with a written purpose. In 1960, five volunteers decided that preserving the cultural traditions of West Virginia was so important that they formed the West Virginia State Folk Festival Corporation in order to assure its future. Mossie Taggart, one of the two 2006 Volunteer Honorees, was one of the five incorporators and the first treasurer, serving for almost twenty years. (The other four volunteers who was responsible for incorporation of the festival were Fern Rollyson, Sabra Tate, Bryron Turner, and Wilbur Dye.) During this early period, the Folk Festival was under the leadership of Fern Rollyson. Mossie says, “We couldn’t have done it without Fern Rollyson, ” who was president of the Festival for many years. “Fern was a precious someone who always did more than her share.”
A grassroots affair in the truest sense, the festival is produced almost exclusively through the dedication and hard work of countless community volunteers. Through their efforts, the independent spirit of the earliest settlers in the central mountains has been admirably upheld.