The Times West Virginian

July 19, 2012

Free concerts set at Pricketts Fort

By Nicole Lemal
For the Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — What better way to celebrate summer than with a free concert?

For the past several years, Pricketts Fort has planned up to five free concerts each summer that are enjoyed by the local community.

And two concerts in August are guaranteed to bring out a crowd.

Grkmania will take the stage Friday, Aug. 10, followed by local music talent the Ginsangers on Friday, Aug. 24, for the park’s final summer show. Vendors may be available for these concerts. Funding has been provided by the Marion County Commission, the Town of White Hall and the City of Pleasant Valley.

“Every concert we thank them, and we try to thank them all the time,” said Greg Bray, executive director of the Pricketts Fort Memorial Foundation. “The Pricketts Fort Memorial Foundation appreciates this ongoing support of the performing arts and the promotion of tourism events in our community.”

Up to 400 people typically pack into the park’s renovated and fully equipped outdoor amphitheater. Interest has sparked so much that music artists and bands are sometimes put on a waiting list for up to three years.

“We just can’t fit them all in,” Bray said.

For the Ginsangers, it’s their first time performing at Pricketts Fort. Based in Elkins, the band has made West Virginia its home. Winning songwriters Connie Townsend and Dave Parker belt out a mix of original and cover songs that range from jazz and blues to swing and country, with Jeff Broschart on drums, Roy Turner on bass and Seth Maynard on guitar.

While performing at MerleFest, on Mountain Stage and on Public Radio, the band has received recognition throughout the country for both their music and song writing. Their most notable honors include being named winner of the 2003 MerleFest Chris Austin Songwriter Contest, the XM Radio Featured Artist in September 2007, and the 2003 Mountain Stage New Song Festival Top 10.

Grkmania is no stranger to Pricketts Fort. Coming from Pittsburgh, the polka band is known for its special blend of Slovenian/Cleveland-style polkas and waltzes and has impressed audiences at Pricketts Fort for the past several years. Each year the band performs the 1970s version of the Steelers’ songs.

Many people from the Shinnston area make it a point to come to the show.

“There’s a lot of Slovenians in the area,” Bray said. “A lot of them came over to work in the mines at the turn of the century. That is what kind of polka that is — Slovenian. We get a big crowd here.”

Three generations of the Grkman family are included in the six-member band: grandfather Joe Sr., brothers Joe Jr. and Steve, and grandson Mike. A 1997 and 1998 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship recipient, Joe Jr. has been inducted into the American Slovenian Polka Foundation Hall of Fame. And Joe Sr. plays the button accordion without keys. Playing without keys and having buttons only on both finger panels earned him the title of “Button Box King.”

As a whole, the band was chosen to represent Pennsylvania folk arts by being featured in a “Grkmania” concert in 1997 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Grkmania has also composed and recorded on Grammy-nominated albums.

To end the year on this note, especially with the two bands, is something Bray said will attract just as large of a crowd in August.

“People like to get out in good weather, and some of them come to every show,” Bray said. “Some don’t. But it’s an inexpensive way for families to do something. We get a lot of families. Sometimes they set out a blanket or sit on the grass or bring their own chairs. They really enjoy it when they’re there.”

For more information about the events, visit www.pricketts fort.org or call 304-363-3030.

Email Nicole Lemal at nlemal@timeswv.com.