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History of the West Virginia State Folk Festival

The West Virginia State Folk Festival was initiated in 1950 by Dr. Patrick Gainer "to preserve the remnants of West Virginia traditional life and culture to the end that citizens may appreciate and respect the achievements of their forbearers."

Each year, the festival committee dedicates a few days to rolling back the hands of time by presenting musicians, dancers, singers and crafters who remind us of the beauty, grace and fun that life in these hills has always held.

The West Virginia State Folk Festival is a great time to look at the beginnings of familiar traditions. The festival itself began as an exhibit and program at the Glenville State College campus as an outgrowth of a summer class in folklore, taught by Dr. Patrick Gainer.

From the first year, Dr. Gainer obtained the help of Jane Singleton and others and in 1957, he invited Glenville and Gilmer County to join in the planning. Many new ideas came to fruition – including the much-loved square dancing in the street and a parade on Saturday. After missing a parade in 1978, the Glenville Lions Club took over the planning of the parade, continuing to this day.

During the first decade, the West Virginia State Folk Festival did not have a formal written purpose. In 1960, five volunteers decided that preserving the cultural traditions of West Virginia was so important that they formed the West Virginia State Folk Festival Corporation in order to assure its future. Mossie Taggart, one of the two 2006 Volunteer Honorees, was one of the five incorporators and the first treasurer, serving for almost twenty years. The other four volunteers who were responsible for incorporation of the festival were Fern Rollyson, Sabra Tate, Bryron Turner, and Wilbur Dye. During this early period, the Folk Festival was under the leadership of Fern Rollyson. Mossie says, "We couldn't have done it without Fern Rollyson," who was president of the Festival for many years. "Fern was a precious someone who always did more than her share."

A grassroots affair in the truest sense, the festival is produced almost exclusively through the dedication and hard work of countless community volunteers. Through their efforts, the independent spirit of the earliest settlers in the central mountains has been admirably upheld.

Dr. Patrick Gainer (1904-1981)

Dr. Gainer established the first festival in 1950. Photo by Patrick A. Gainer, 1974, published on the cover of the summer 2000 issue of Goldenseal Magazine.

Fern Rollyson (1904-1988)

A past president of the WV State Folk Festival.

Mossie Taggart (1910-2007)

One of the five volunteers who, in 1960, incorporated the WV State Folk Festival.

The historic Little Kanawha Valley Bank

Items on display inside the

Little Kanawha Valley Bank

Children play music inside the Country Store and Musuem during the festival

The Country Store and Museum

Many items are on display at the Country Store and Museum

History is told in the oral tradition

inside the museum

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