THE INTER-MOUNTAIN - Elkins Rotarians learned Monday about the upcoming 45th annual Augusta program on the campus of Davis & Elkins College.
Beth King, Augusta Heritage Center director, spoke about the program which will take place from July 22 through Aug. 11, culminating in the annual Augusta Festival on Aug. 11 at Elkins City Park.
“We are going into our 45th summer this summer which is pretty amazing to me. I’ve only been involved for the last four summers but it is really a wonderful program that has changed, grown, shrunk and re-grown over the past 45 years,” King said. “We’ve worked very hard the past couple of years to try to make it more accessible to the local community through scholarships and make it more welcoming so everyone in town will want to come to campus and see what we have going on.”
July 22-27 will be Old Time Week and Blues and Swing Week; July 29-Aug. 3 will be Cajun and Creole Week and Classic Country Week; and Aug. 5-10 will be Bluegrass Week and Vocal Week.
“We used to be a five-week program and we have condensed down to three weeks, so it is going to be three very intense, jam-packed weeks on campus,” King said. “Participants come in on Sundays and stay through very late on Friday night, then leave on Saturday morning.”
King said visitors come from across the state, country and world to participate in Augusta classes.
“A lot of people come and participate for the whole week, they take a full day class and they come from all across the United States and around the world,” she said. “This year, our particular country that we have the most people coming from is Australia. We have about 14 people coming from Australia. They are also coming from Japan, China, all across the United Kingdom, a lot of people from West Virginia and then across the United States as well.”
On Tuesday and Thursday nights, the program will feature concerts including music by teachers and musicians and are open to the public.
“We see the most community participation with our concerts. On Tuesday and Thursday nights we will again have concerts open to the community. They are ticketed but they are very reasonable, they are $12 per ticket,” King said. “They feature all the teachers and performers that are there for the week so these are folks you could see all across the world.”
Depending on the week and styles of music, there will be three to five dances held at the Augusta Dance Pavilion.
King emphasized that you do not have to participate or perform to come out and enjoy the music or dances.
“One thing, even if you are not a musician, that you would enjoy is coming up and listening to the music,” she said. “At night, you can walk anywhere from Halliehurst over to the pavilion and plaza area and find jams everywhere. You don’t have to participate, you can just sit and listen. It is really wonderful music and it’s like sitting on the front row of a concert in New York sometimes because you have musicians you would be hundreds of feet from normally and you can actually sit right there by them, sit up close, hear them talk and get to experience that.”
Other events throughout the year include the West Virginia Fiddlers’ Reunion on Oct. 27 and Pickin’ in the Park each Wednesday at the Elkins City Park.
King said she believes the program has benefited the area both economically and culturally.
“All of these people who come to Elkins spend money, whether they spend it at a restaurant, stay at a hotel, stay in the dorms or stay at Graceland Inn and Conference Center. …,” King said. “Also, culturally, I think we’ve contributed a lot to the local community over the past 45 years. I know a lot of people have made lifelong friendships with people they met that taught at Augusta.”
For more information and a list of programs and events, visit www.augustaheritagecenter.org or call 304-637-1209.
“This summer, when you are looking for something to do on a weeknight or on festival weekend, take a peek at the website. If you have any questions at all, call the office or leave us a message because we would love to have you come to campus and take part in what we have to offer at Augusta,” King said.