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FESTIVAL COVERAGE: Healing Appalachia 2023 - A Journey of Triumph and Melody

Date of Event: September 21 - 23, 2023 Location: WV State Fairgrounds, Lewisburg, WV Photos & Review by Nina Martin I was privileged to be a part of the 4th Annual Healing Appalachia Festival held at the scenic WV State Fairgrounds in Lewisburg, West Virginia. This event wasn’t just a festival; it was a grand celebration of resilience, recovery, and the unyielding human spirit fighting against drug addiction. From the onset, a blanket of hope wrapped the fairgrounds. The festival reverberated with tales of hardship and triumph, as many shared their experiences of addiction and the arduous path to recovery between the musical sets. The festival opened with the rich, rocking sounds of Emily Nenni, her voice echoing a young Dolly Parton, setting a vibrant tone. Followed by Amethyst Kiah, her soulful wails and bluesy vocals enveloped the crowd, each note filled with heartfelt emotion. Charles Wesley Godwin, who made a dedicated journey in a U-Haul, captivated the audience with his authentic and colorful storytelling, ending his set with the beloved anthem, "Country Roads." The first night reached its zenith with the southern rock vibes of Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, a display of undeniable musicianship and chemistry that left an indelible mark and anticipation for what lay ahead. Day two did not disappoint, beginning with a blast of energy from Jocelyn and the Sweet Compression. Their eclectic blend of soul, jazz, funk, and rock reaffirmed their reputation as an unstoppable force. Marcus King’s powerhouse vocals and a spectacular Black Sabbath cover solidified his set as a rock and roll revival. Umphrey McGee's otherworldly sound and lights paired with their seasoned performance skills showcased their rich experience, while Gov't Mule, led by the legendary Warren Haynes, closed the night, affirming their timeless appeal. Despite the rain on day three, the festival’s spirit was undampened. Kelsey Waldon's fierce vocals set a robust tone, followed by the Appalachian storytelling of William Matheny. Katie Pruitt's set, filled with conviction and a spectacular vocal range, proved impervious to the weather's mood. Artists like Tre Burt, Tommy Prine, and Ritch Henderson further elevated the crowd’s spirits, each adding their unique flair and influences to the day. Although Tim Goodin’s set was cut short, his brief performance left a significant imprint, setting the stage for Trey Anastasio. Trey's personal connection to the festival's mission resonated in his heartfelt speech and smooth, funky rock sounds, creating an unforgettable set that was both poignant and uplifting. The festival culminated with the Appalachian king himself, Tyler Childers. His intimate acoustic set, followed by a high-energy performance with the Foodstamps, held the audience, all 16,000 of them, in complete awe, bringing the incredible three-day festival to a sublime close. Witnessing this enthralling amalgamation of music, stories, and collective resilience at the Healing Appalachia Festival was not just an assignment for me; it was an emotional and inspirational journey. The united stand of artists and attendees against the opioid crisis in Appalachia, intertwined with exceptional music and unyieldable spirit, symbolized the hopeful path forward for communities touched by addiction. It truly was the perfect ending to a meaningful and impactful event, leaving behind melodies of hope, recovery, and enduring human spirit that will echo throughout the hills of Appalachia until next year's gathering. As I put down my camera and laptop, the festival's echo of hope and triumphant stories continue to resonate within, a poignant reminder of the collective strive towards healing and recovery in the Appalachian community.


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