Ten years ago, Rachel Shaner of Madison attended the Annual Poppy Mountain Bluegrass festival in Morehead, Ky., with her family. She was just four-years-old then, but still has fond memories of that week long vacation.
Since then, members of her family have attended each year but she has been unable to go back with them until this year.
Rachel was living with her father in Ohio until August of this year when she moved to WV to live with her mother.
Now, at age fourteen, she is making plans to go with her family to the 20th Anniversary of the festival Sept 11-15, 2012.
“I’ve been waiting to go back to Poppy for a long time. I can hardly wait to get there,” Rachel said.
Poppy Mountain Bluegrass Festival is where the best of the best in bluegrass music meet every year during the third week of September in Morehead, Ky. Any music lover will tell you that hearing music in person is always better than listening to it on a CD, radio or Ipod.
What makes that experience even better is when you surround it with a 1000 areas of rolling hillside, campfires burning in the distance, old barns filled with antiques, and freshwater ponds to fish in. That is what you’ll find at the Poppy Mountain Bluegrass Festival. The campground offers 3,000 motor home hook-ups and plenty of room for primitive camping.
The biggest draw to the five-day festival is certainly the music. The main stage opens daily at noon with top performers in bluegrass and country music performing all day until midnight. In addition to the main stage performances, there are up and coming musicians playing on the showcase stage every day. “If you don’t find what you like on the stages, you surely will find it at the all-night jam sessions that take place around the campfires and under the campground sheds,” Pat Wheatley, Rachel’s Grandmother, of Chapmanville said.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that some of these musicians aren’t playing on the main stage. They have certainly perfected their talent and will entertain for as long as they have a crowd and often times long after the crowd goes to bed.
Jammin Ridge is one of the most-lively areas on the mountain. Musicians come from all over the world to jam with the pickers on Jammin Ridge. These guys and gals bring out banjos, guitars, up right bases, fiddles, steel guitars, mandolins and other instruments that look and sound a little odd, but always add to the jam session.
“The music never stops,” according to Wheatley. “They play all night and day.”
“Our family likes to camp on Jammin Ridge because that’s where you hear all the late night jammin,” Rachel said. “It’s where my Uncle Ray (Wheatley of Chapmanville) will be jamming again this year.”
Bluegrass lovers flock to this festival for the great music on and off the stage but there are many other things to do.
Throughout the campgrounds are several antique cars on display and sometimes one will be converted into a taxi that will drive you around at no cost just to see what’s happening on the other side of the mountain.
There are a handful of ponds to fish in and more than 20 miles of trails to enjoy four-wheeling or horseback riding.
Most everyone who attends this festival brings an ATV or golf cart with them. If you don’t own a golf cart, you can rent one at the festival. Children get excited about the trolley trains that run during the daylight hours. They stop in front of your campsite and pick you up for a tour ride and then bring you back, all at no cost to you.
Behind the main stage is an open barn that houses antiques hanging from the ceiling and walls and this barn is also where folks can play daily bingo games and even shoot a game of pool on the table in the loft. Many of the musicians will come into this barn to sign autographs after their shows.
In addition to all of the above activities, campers play pranks on each other.
“I like to watch the water balloon fight that takes place on both sides of the Jammin Ridge pond. “It’s pretty funny. It takes three people to hold this sling shot that some campers from Wisconsin use to launch a balloon across the pond,” Wheatley said.
Another on is a leaf blower that some guy turned into a toilet papering device used to tepee campsites. “Now that is hilarious,” said Brandy Hughes, Rachel’s Aunt of Newark, Ohio, and a former Boone County resident.
With all the fun this festival offers, relationships built from going year after year are truly one of the best parts about going to Poppy Mountain.
“It’s kind of like building an extended family,” Wheatley said. “You get to reconnect with people you know only through this shared, end of the summer vacation and then you meet new people and add them to the ‘Poppy family.’”
For Rachel, this will be a reunion of a family tradition started fifteen years ago, but if it’s your first time going to Poppy, you will see artists such as The Lonesome River Band, Earl Thomas Conley, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Jamie Johnson, Marty Raybon, Russell Moore and III Tyme Out, Scott Holstein (a Boone County Native), and Old Back 40 Band, The Hillbilly Gypsies, and so many more and that’s just on the main stage.
“Don’t forget to hang out in the crowds at night and you’ll hear my Uncle Ray picking and singing and he’s the best,” Rachel said.
As they say on the mountain, “HAPPY POPPY.” For more information and a complete lineup, go to www.poppymountainbluegrass.com