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Free fun and good music are keys to South Charleston Summerfest

Courtesy photo
Big crowds gather around the mound in South Charleston for Summerfest. The annual festival kicks off its 12th year Thursday and runs through Sunday.

WANT TO GO?

Summerfest

WHERE: Around the mound, South Charleston

WHEN: 6 p.m. Thursday, 5 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday

COST: Free

INFO: 304-746-552 or www.southcharlestonwv.orgCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bob Anderson, the Executive Director of the South Charleston Convention and Visitor's Bureau, likes to think of South Charleston's Summerfest as kind of a tradition.

"A lot of people plan their vacations around it," he said excitedly. "They plan reunions around Summerfest. I think it's sort of taken the place of Regatta as an end-of-the-summer kind of event."

He certainly hopes so, anyway.

The festival, now in its 12th year, runs through Sunday in the area around the South Charleston Mound. It features '50s and '60s music, dance competitions, a car show, Saturday night fireworks and the United Way Sunday Scoop.

Talking with Anderson, the details pour out of him in a gush. To call him enthusiastic would be an understatement. Andersons is a cheerleader for all things South Charleston and very excited about Summerfest, which he said has roots in the 1960s.

"Back in 1966, I used to do Mound dances in South Charleston. Big crowds, people loved them. But then I went on and worked for years other places."

He smiled broadly. "I worked for Governor Rockefeller and other people, too."

 After Anderson was brought in as the director of the South Charleston CVB, he said people asked him about bringing the dances back. What he came up with was a bit more ambitious.

"I started this as 10 days, but cut it down to five," he said. "It just works better that way."

Along the way, he said he's found a lot of things that work for Summerfest. Music is key. It's one of the things that draws a crowd, and Anderson thinks the event has found its niche with bands like The Esquires, The Starliters and Rick K and The Allnighters.

"People love the music of the '50s and '60s," he said. "You've got the older people who remember the old dances and the younger people like it, too."

Plus, he said, some of these bands have solid local followings. People who come to Summerfest sort of expect to see them year after year.

"I get asked about Rick K and the Allnighters all year round. Everybody wants to know if I'm bringing them back. I think I've booked them more times than other band we've ever had."

Anderson said Summerfest isn't just about good music; it's about good value, which has never been more important.

"A lot of parents are having a hard time right now, with the economy the way it is," he said. "We want to have a lot of free things. So the music is free. For the kids, we've got free snow cones and cotton candy, free face painting and a free Jupiter Jump."

The fireworks are free, too, and Anderson promised they are spectacular.

"They go off right above you while you're standing on the dance floor. Other places with other fireworks, they're off to the side, but ours are overhead. They just seem so close."

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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