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FestivALL to join W.Va.'s birthday party

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kool and the Gang, Kathy Mattea and Marcia Ball are among the entertainers coming to this June's FestivALL celebration in Charleston.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones and FestivALL Executive Director Larry Groce gave an overview of the eighth annual event Monday morning at the Culture Center.

Jones and Groce said this year's FestivALL, scheduled for June 21-30, would probably see larger crowds and some bigger events thanks to a partnership with the West Virginia Sesquicentennial Committee to help celebrate the state's 150th birthday.

"There are going to be a lot of people coming up this way for that," Jones said. "We think it will enhance our event that much more."

Groce said the cooperative effort between the city and the state would show itself in several ways. The Smoke on the Water Chili Cook-Off would be moved up Kanawha Boulevard from Haddad Riverfront Park to the front of the Capitol, and will run later.

"We'll have music all day and after the contest finishes up in the afternoon," Groce said.

FestivALL's downtown art parade will be moved from its usual route along Capitol Street to Kanawha Boulevard. It will also include participants related to the sesquicentennial celebration.

"We see it as being much bigger and representing more of the state," Groce said.

Groce promised that the 10-day festival would feature "130 events and 350 performances."

Some of the musical highlights include Cross Lanes native Mattea, who will perform a free Live on the Levee concert at Haddad Riverfront Park on June 21; the annual Mayor's Concert at the Clay Center on June 27 with R&B and soul stars Kool and the Gang; and blues singer and pianist Marcia Ball at Blues, Brews and BBQ on the University of Charleston riverbank lawn on June 28.

New Orleans brass jazz, funk and soul band Soul Rebels will perform June 29 at Wine & All That Jazz, also at UC. Other acts, Groce said, will be added to Blues, Brews and BBQ and Wine & All That Jazz in the coming months.

As in previous years, the West Virginia Public Radio show "Mountain Stage" will close out FestivALL on June 30. Adam Harris, the show's executive producer, said it was too soon to say precisely who would be on the show.

"We might have two or three of the acts ready to announce by the end of the week," Harris said. But he acknowledged the show was still working to find a headliner.

"We want to get someone we feel would be appropriate for a venue like the Clay Center," he said.

However, Harris wasn't sure booking the Clay Center would make sense even if the show got an artist with major crowd appeal.

"I'm not sure how having the [West Virginia] Youth Symphony in the lobby the day of the show would affect sound check for our guests. That's no problem for us. We like the Culture Center Theater."

Tickets for the Mayor's Concert are on sale now through the Clay Center and cost $43, $58 and $68. Ticket prices for all other shows will be announced later.

The FestivALL Dance Gala will take place June 26 and feature special guests from the Martha Graham Dance Company performing "Appalachian Spring Suite." Other highlights include "The History of the Civil War in Story, Song and Dance," created by musician/historian Bobby Horton, who created music for Ken Burns' PBS documentary "The Civil War," as well as the premiere of the Contemporary Youth Arts Company's production "Holly Grove," an original play by Dan Kehde and Mark Scarpelli commemorating the 100th anniversary of the mine wars along Cabin Creek and Paint Creek.

Groce said many of the popular events, such as the West Side Wiener Dog Race, the Dance in Davis Park and the Children's Art Fair, will return.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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