Twenty Years of Cheat Fest

Music and nature combine at this annual festival in Preston County.


Photographed by Gabe DeWitt

The annual Cheat River Festival, also known as Cheat Fest, celebrates new life—both the coming of spring and the new life of the river. Cheat Fest is an annual fundraiser for Friends of the Cheat (FOC), a nonprofit formed by citizens in 1994 to clean up the Cheat River watershed. The 2014 festival marks the festival’s 20th year. “The scale and scope of the festival have grown, but at its core it’s remained the same—a family-friendly music festival where stakeholders and community members as well as music lovers and artists gather each year,” says Emma Donovan, festival coordinator. 

On Saturday, May 3, 2014, the festival grounds in Albright, West Virginia, will once again transform into a haven for boaters, music lovers, and families. Bands from all over Appalachia entertain crowds with live music all day. Festivalgoers can browse the art market, learn about other great organizations, bid on silent auction goods, and eat barbecue sandwiches, among other things. This year kids of all ages will also enjoy hands-on activities at the kids’ tent. Athletic festivalgoers can test their ability by climbing the rock wall and participating in the 5K or the Cheat Canyon downriver race. 

The Music

Noon – 1 p.m. Pops Walker and Kipyn Martin
“Pops is a great instrumentalist and thoughtful songwriter,” Emma says. “Kipyn is younger, but comes strongly recommended with a beautiful voice to bring.”

1:15-2:15 p.m. Shotgun Serenade
“They are local Preston County boys with southern rock influence. They’re also influenced by bluegrass and blues, with more of a stomping Appalachian feel.”

2:30-3:30 p.m. Andrew McKnight
“Andrew is a thoughtful songwriter with political consciousness. His music is soft Appalachian bluesy and folksy—almost poetry.”

3:45-4:45 p.m. From the Hip
“These band members are loved by the community. It’s really special to have them back on the stage with their fun bluegrass ‘new grass’ spin,” Emma says.

5:00-6 p.m. The Weedrags
“The Weedrags are new to our stage,” Emma says. “They have a strong background in old time pickin’ and bluegrass.”

6:15-7:15 p.m. Rev. Willard’s Acoustic Circus
“They are reliable fast pickin’, traditional high energy bluegrass performers.”

7:30-9 p.m. Johnny Staats & the Delivery Boys
“We’re all really excited to have them on our stage for the first time,” Emma says. “Johnny’s known to play so fast you can see traces of his fingertips. He’s a favorite of hardcore bluegrass enthusiasts.”

9:15-10:15 p.m. Stewed Mulligan
“This band is coming back for its 20th year. They’re a unique Appalachian group, and Cheat Fest wouldn’t be Cheat Fest without them.”

10:30-11:30 p.m. Rising Regina
“Having performed last year, too, Rising Regina is closing out the event. They kick things up a notch, playing American fusion with folk, blues, and rock with progressive underpinning.”


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