Pickin’ in the Panhandle
A three-day celebration of bluegrass music and world-class barbeque, this Hedgesville festival has something for everyone.
This September, the picturesque Lazy A Campground in Berkeley County will play host to the fourth annual Pickin’ in the Panhandle Festival, and organizers are celebrating the event’s success and anticipating unprecedented crowds with national country music headliners, returning bluegrass acts, and a whole mess of serious barbeque competitors.
The brainchild of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Pickin’ was conceptualized when board member Larry Hines complained that West Virginia was the only Southern state without a barbeque championship competition. “Bluegrass just seemed to be a natural fit,” says Martinsburg-Berkeley County CVB Executive Director Andrea Ball. The festival showcases famous acts like this year’s headliners Ricky Skaggs, Joe Diffie, and Shenandoah, as well as regional and local musicians. Returning acts like Mountain Heart and Jett's Creek are on the line-up, too.
But it’s not just the music that keeps folks coming back for more. This event just happens to be the Kansas City Barbeque Society’s only sanctioned event in West Virginia, and in order to move on to the big daddy of barbeque contests—“The Jack” in Lynchburg, Tennessee—you’ve got to first claim a Grand Champion prize in a competition of this magnitude. Repeat competitor Rick Hamilton of Yorktown, Virginia, says, “Of course, Hedgesville is a special place because we received our first Grand Championship here. But the beauty of West Virginia is hard to beat.”
Located in Back Creek Valley, just eight miles from Martinsburg, the Lazy A Campground hosts not only the bands and barbequers, but also food vendors, craftspeople, and artists. Even amateur musicians can participate in Saturday’s music competition and partake in a little parking lot pickin’. And for those over 21, a beer garden helps folks beat the heat while celebrating local breweries. “It’s been really important that the festival concentrates on promoting local vendors, musicians, and resources,” says longtime volunteer Jim Bowers of Martinsburg. A serious barbeque connoisseur after living in Texas, Jim says, “To most people, barbequing means you fire up your gas grill and throw on a few hamburgers and hot dogs. But this is the real deal.”
Pickin’ in the Panhandle; 304.261.8801; www.panhandlepickin.com