CLIFFTOP, W.Va. -- After eight days, Rebecca Dixon hadn't quite had enough of sleeping outdoors or listening to string band music. She probably won't be tired of it when the annual Appalachian String Band Festival at Clifftop concludes Sunday afternoon after the informal group hymn sing.
The North Carolina native arrived the night of July 26 at Camp Washington Carver in Fayette County. This is her fourth visit to the annual music festival and she's having a wonderful time.
Taking a break from looking at a table loaded with new banjos to pet a friendly dog, the petite woman said of her arrival, "I slept in the front seat of my car.
"In a rain storm," she added, sounding a little surprised at herself.
The festival didn't even officially begin until almost a week later. Workshops, contests, dances and classes started Aug. 1, but arriving a week before the festival starts isn't unusual.
"There was a line of cars," she said. "I was 30th in line."
Dixon and many others don't necessarily come for the events, although they're glad to have them.
"Oh, it's the music and the people," she grinned. "There's this whole community of old-time music that comes here. It's just the best thing on earth!"
"Community" is the word repeated again and again at the Appalachian String Band Festival. Community is what brought Canadians Arielle Arnold-Levene and Sharon Joseph back from Toronto to rural West Virginia.
"We don't really have this where we're from," Arnold-Levene said. "The people here are just so nice. Everyone is so nice, and there's the music. It's like stepping into a different world."
The community is global. In the campground, flags from New Zealand, Britain and France fly next to tents and RVs. Hans Martin Austestad came from Norway to be at the festival.
"It is the main event of my trip to the U.S.," he said. "I got a government stipend from Norway to do this -- to come and play music and learn about the culture."
The crowd at Camp Washington Carver might be considered a mismatched bunch, with some of them sort of buttoned down and some with bright pink hair, but there's a sense of kinship everywhere.
There's a lot of music being played, as you can scarcely go 10 feet without hearing a banjo or fiddle, but there's not a lot of noise.
There's music everywhere.
While a lot of bands take their turns to try and win some of the prize money the festival offers, ensembles of varying sizes strike up all over the grounds. People play at their campsites, then venture out to find old associates and new partners.
Under the shade of an old tree, brothers Ian and Scott Friend carve out a tune with a group of young men they've been meeting up with to play with for about six years. They have been coming to the festival since before either of them can really remember.