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Charlie Daniels coming to Panhandle

February 13, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Organizers of West Virginia's official bluegrass and barbecue festival hope to swell turnout for the relatively new Berkeley County tourism event with the booking of The Charlie Daniels Band this year.

In an annual presentation Thursday to the Berkeley County Commission, Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) Executive Director Andrea Ball said the well-known Southern rock band was contracted to perform for the third annual Pickin' in the Panhandle.

The two-day festival, featuring several bands, musical talent contests and the state championship barbecue competition sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, is scheduled for Sept. 12 and 13 in Back Creek Valley at the Lazy A Campground.

The scheduled performance of the Charlie Daniels Band already has fueled the sale of about 400 tickets, said Ball, who hopes the event nets about $100,000 if all goes well this year.

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The band is best known for its 1979 single "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." The top 10 hit earned the band a Grammy for best country vocal performance.

The band's other hits include "The South's Gonna Do It (Again)," "Long Haired Country Boy," "In America," "The Legend of Wooley Swamp" and "Still in Saigon."

While Ball said she hopes the festival will grow to the point where it becomes an established event, she told Commissioner Anthony J. "Tony" Petrucci the CVB was inclined to keep the festival under the supervision of the tourism promotion agency, at least for "the time being."

Historically, the CVB has "spun off" past startup events, but Ball said Friday the financial outlay needed to organize the festival was substantial, and doubted an organization would be in a position to take on the responsibility.

Last year, Ball said about 4,700 people attended the festival, about 1,000 more than the first year.

While the event did not make a profit, Ball said the CVB stayed "well within our budget."

"I hope to make a profit this year, frankly," she said.

The CVB relies on the hotel occupancy tax collected by the City of Martinsburg and Berkeley County for funding to fulfill a mission of encouraging, developing and promoting tourism as well as provide tourism services.

Ball said the festival is helping establish a niche in addition to the community's rich heritage tourism market.

At last year's festival, Ball said a food writer for The Washington Post enrolled for the barbecue judging certification class and the competition attracted entrants from as far away as Oklahoma and Texas.

When the festival was being put together, Ball said she was more focused on the music portion of the event and admitted she wasn't aware of the dedication of barbecue competitors, which she said are "hard core" about their work.

More information about Pickin' In the Panhandle and other events in Martinsburg and Berkeley County is available at www.travelwv.com.

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