‘Grass’ roots

MARTINSBURG – It’s been said that bluegrass is so popular in part because so many of its performers are big fans, too.

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Since the Pickin’ in the Panhandle bluegrass festival debuted in Berkeley County in 2007, a large number of talented bluegrass musicians have emerged here both to play and to applaud from the audience, notes Jenn Jensen of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the organization behind the festival.

But the September festival – which over the years has attracted big-name performers such as Charlie Daniels, Joe Diffie, Confederate Railroad and Marty Stuart – isn’t the only time bluegrass musicians are coming together in the Panhandle, Jensen said.

“Bluegrass has always been very popular here and Pickin’ in the Panhandle has brought that to the forefront,” Jensen said.

Jensen said there have been all kinds of positive side effects since the start of Pickin’, including the creation late last year of the Bluegrass Music Alliance, which has begun to host jam sessions, free and open to anyone, on Tuesday evenings at the Caperton Train Station at 226 E. Martin St. in Martinsburg.

This weekend, the alliance kicks into high gear with its first large-scale event, one organizers hope will become a much-loved local tradition ala Pickin’: a dinner and live show called the Bluegrass Music Alliance Snowball.

Saturday’s fun at the Moose Lodge at 201 Woodbury Ave. in Martinsburg begins with a social hour at 5 p.m., a country buffet from 6 to 8 p.m. and then live music from four bluegrass bands until 10 p.m.

The bands on the lineup: Drymill Road, Ernie Bradley & The Grassy Ridge, Circa Blue and The Back Creek Valley Boys.

A cash bar will be set up and tickets (including dinner) cost $20 for the general public or $15 for members of the BMA. (A year’s membership, which will run through Dec. 31, costs $20 for an individual, $60 for a band or $100 for business partner. Benefits of membership are outlined on the BMA website, www.BluegrassMusicAlliance.org.)

“We’re really fortunate in this area to have so many musicians and fans who want to see the bluegrass genre continue to thrive,” Jensen said. “There are so many talented bluegrass performers here and it’s exciting to see the community come together and share their love for this music – and we suspect, too, it’ll get everyone thinking ahead to this fall and another round of Pickin’.

“That’s exciting, too.”

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