THE EXPONENT TELEGRAM - Tucked away in Randolph County, the city of Elkins continues to offer residents and visitors plenty to do throughout the year.
One of the top entertainments sites in the Gandy Dancer Theater, which offers the only Branson-style dinner show in the state, said G’na Stephens, the company CEO. It offers a large variety of music at its shows, ranging from ’50s to present day, with all sorts of genres.
“People want a variety when they come to see a show. ... It’s every genre you can hear. It’s something you can bring your grandmother or children to an not feel embarrassed,” Stephens said.
The theater is No. 1 on TripAdvisor.com. They offer eight different types of shows, including a premiere show, a two-hour history titled “A Tribute to Musical Legends,” and two murder mystery dinner theater performances.
“It’s always different than the year before,” Stephens said. “It’s very interactive with the audiences. It’s a whole night of laughter and fun.”
She said that while the music and jokes may change, they still remain a family show.
“We’re still doing the same dynamics of the show, so other than that, we change the music and comedy and the set flow, but the base roots of what we’re doing is always going to stay the same,” Stephens said. “It’s multi-generational entertainment.”
Having entertainment such as the Gandy Dancer Theater is important because it can draw visitors back to the area, officials say.
“People come in and ride the trains and see the museum, but in the evening they want to see entertainment,” Stephens said. “The more business we bring in, the more tourism dollars — it’s a constant rollover, and West Virginia needs tourism.”
For more information on the Gandy Dancer Theater and upcoming shows, visit www.gandydancertheatre.com.
Davis & Elkins College also offers a wide variety of events and entertainment, said Nanci Bross-Fregonara, the director of communications and marketing.
The theater departments puts on three plays a year, and the college offers monthly square dances.
“They’re very popular,” Bross-Fregonara said. “It attracts young people, older people, traditionalists, all sorts in the community.”
D&E also has a group called the Appalachian Ensemble, which is both a string band and dance ensemble that puts on various performances throughout the year.
“They focus on traditional Appalachian style, but also goes in their own direction and does their own interpretations,” Bross-Fregonara said.
In addition to hosting a variety of concerts, Davis & Elkins College is also the host site for National Public Radio’s Mountain Stage during the Augusta Festival.
The college is home to the Augusta Heritage Center, which sponsors Augusta summer sessions for those interested.
“It is four weeks in the summer of traditional music, art and crafts. Augusta summer sessions have two community concerts a week and the grand finale ‘Mountain Stage,’” Bross-Freonara said. “And we also have a program related to the Augusta Heritage Center, which is in the fall, October Old Time Week, so basically the Augusta Heritage Center offers a great deal of entertainment to the community.”
Having these events are important to present the area’s history, as well as introduce attendees to other forms of entertainment.
“The Augusta Heritage Center, that’s been part of the community for more than 40 years, and it grew out a desire to showcase and celebrate traditions from the region,” Bross-Fregonara said. “So we’ve felt it’s important to celebrate what we have here, but it’s also important to bring in other groups and bands and styles people aren’t so familiar with and expose them to other traditions and types of cultures.”
For more information on the entertainment Davis & Elkins College provides, as well as a complete schedule, visit www.dewv.edu.
For information on the Augusta Heritage Center and to see this year’s schedule, visit www.augustaheritagecenter.org.
Elkins is also home to the Old Brick Playhouse, which has been honored at the White House twice in the past 10 years for being one of the top 15 arts after-school programs in the country, said Phillip Smith, the assistant director.
The theater hosts an apprenticeship program for grade-schoolers every year, which begins in October and ends in May, finishing with a major production in May. This year, they will be doing “The Lion King Jr.,” which will run from May 3 to May 9.
The playhouse also does touring theater for elementary schools and provides the entertainment cast for the “Polar Express” with the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad.
“We provide 17 people per trip, and this year I think there are 58 trips,” Smith said. “We bring in roughly 16,000 people to Elkins every November and December.”
He believes that having arts and entertainment such as this in Elkins is vital to the area.
“Elkins is beginning to be a little noted for its arts organization,” Smith said. “And without sounding egotistical, life would be very dull without art.”
For more information on The Old Brick Playhouse, visit www.theoldbrickplayhouse.org.