The Times West Virginian


June 5, 2014

13th annual PattyFest celebration of Appalachian music

FAIRMONT — Two years after her death, Patty Looman will be honored this weekend during an annual festival of Appalachian music.

The 13th annual PattyFest will be held in honor of Looman, who carried on the tradition of Appalachian music. PattyFest begins at 9 a.m. Saturday and runs until 9 p.m., with the entire festival taking place at East Fairmont High School.

Pat Harper, one of Looman’s former students, called the teacher “the matriarch of the hammer dulcimer world of West Virginia.”

According to Harper, Looman taught Appalachian music that could have dated back to the 1700s. Looman would sometimes listen to older fiddle players and record and learn the music they were playing.

“She was able to singularly compile an archive of tunes that you could not find in a tune book or anywhere,” Harper said.

The festival is intended to honor Looman, said Harper. A variety of activities will take place during the festival.

“It honors Patty (Looman), but it promotes and carries on the old-time music,” Harper said. “If she didn’t pass it on, it would eventually pass away. Some of the songs we play, you wouldn’t hear anywhere else.”

The festival includes instrument workshops that begin at 9:30 a.m. and a variety of bands and artists who begin playing at noon, according to a press release.

Lonna O’Dell, an event organizer and Looman’s former student, said there are many workshops to learn how to play an instrument. There will be workshops for the fiddle, a variety of dulcimers, mandolin, spoons, banjo, harp, harmonica and a vocal class.

“Some of (the workshops) include beginning and immediate levels of play,” O’Dell said. “There will be a slow-jam workshop for those just learning songs.”

The music being played and taught has Appalachian roots.

“People trace genealogy because it’s part of their heritage,” Harper said. “(This music) is part of our past and our history that we have to preserve. It connects us. I love knowing I’m playing tunes that people were playing a couple hundred years ago.”

During the festival, Harper said food will be available, including ramps, old-time ammonia cookies, fried green tomatoes, sassafras tea and other options.

“People will jam in the building or in the parking lot,” Harper said. “This is people getting together and playing music. If you like old-time music, it’s an event to attend.”

More information on PattyFest can be found at

Email Richard Babich at or follow him on Twitter @rbabichTWV.

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