West Virginia State Folk Festival

Music, Heritage, and Appalachian  Culture

History of the WV 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.

The Historic Little Kanawha Valley Bank

On July 12, 1901, the Little Kanawha Valley Bank was incorporated in Glenville.
That same year, the bank was constructed with wood coming from a local plaining mill and the decorated with metal work that had been brought in on river packet boats. In 1906, two Glenville banks merged - the First National Bank and the Little Kanawha Valley Bank, forming the Kanawha Union Bank, which is now United National Bank.

It was in the historic Little Kanawha Valley Bank that the WV State Folk Festival first established a Country Store in 1960. Volunteers were Starling and Nelson Wells, Nellie Engelke, Myra Mick, and Festival president, Fern Rollyson. Around 1970, the Country Store and Museum was relocated to the old Ruddell General Store, which was built in 1890 on Court Street.

The Little Kanawha Valley Bank needed to be moved because Kanawha Union Bank wanted to expand their property. In March of 1977, the president of Kanawha Union Bank, Jack Stalnaker, offered the historic bank to the West Virginia State Folk Festival if the organization would preserve it as a landmark. In addition, Kanawha Union Bank donated $500.00 toward the moving fee. Folk Festival volunteers met on Monday, March 21st, 1977, and voted to accept the offer. Nelson Wells was appointed a committee of one to seek donations, contact movers and builders for the foundation, and to direct the restoration of the building. On Monday, March 28, 1977, the move was completed within one week, and the bank set up on the corner of Fern Rollyson’s property on Howard Street, where it still stands.

In 1991, the Little Kanawha Valley Bank was listed on the National Register of Historic Places through the efforts of the West Virginia State Folk Festival and the General Federated Woman’s Club of Glenville.

Inside the bank, you will see the oak framing and marble counters and the original metal grillwork around the two bank work stations, one for the cashier and one for the bookkeeper. Several old cash registers are also there. An old bank safe stands open in a back room. Photographs on the walls tell the history of the bank.

WV State Folk Festival volunteers are still in the process of preserving and restoring this local landmark, which requires donations. A donation box can be found in the bank – we appreciate your help to preserve and restore the Little Kanawha Valley Bank as a unique part of West Virginia history. Donations may also be made via PayPay, by clicking here.

The Country Store & Museum

The Country Store & Museum is located at the foot of Courthouse Hill and was built in 1890, becoming headquarters for the West Virginia State Folk Festival in 1973. This site is the soul of the festival.
The Country Store and Museum is listed in the National Register of Historic Places for the building itself and for the site's early merchandising. The store first began as Ruddell General Store, selling farm equipment, dry goods, and household items. When Mr. Ruddell moved to Parkersburg, WV, he leased it – the name became Arnold and Moss, with descendants of those men still living in Gilmer County.

Sometime in the 1920’s, the well-known Hub Department Store moved from Main Street into the building, which eventually specialized in high quality men's clothing. The store was run by Hyman Bass, then his son Charles, and finally Hyman's daughter, Cecelia Bass Nachman, and her husband, Max. 

In 1971, Charles Ruddell and Mildred Ruddell Arbuckle sold the store to the Folk Festival. Before that time, The Country Store occupied a building on Bank Street, and it was the primary source of funds for the Folk Festival. Gradually, museum display items were added. When several craft stores opened in Glenville, it was decided the store would no longer be an outlet with consignment sales. There are cassettes and CD's of old-time musicians, Folk Festival t-shirts, candy, Festival calendars, wooden toys and other items in the sales area. The remaining store space holds not-for-sale displays of antique farm tools, toys, clothes, musical instruments, and household items.

Restoration and repair has been an ongoing process. About 1995, Don Kelble, Bruce Hathaway, Jim Bailey, and others started the replacement of sills and foundations. During the past several years until 2008, the Country Store was managed by Judy and David Brown. The restoration efforts are slowly being realized.

The Country Store Museum continues as a center for Folk Festival activities and archives. The store is opened for visitors when the town fills up for any reason and when requested for class tours. The lack of central heating keeps it closed in the dead of winter.

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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