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Sheriff eyes safety concerns with growing festival

August 21, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Berkeley County Sheriff Kenneth M. Lemaster Jr. said Thursday he was preparing for an expected record turnout next month for the 2009 West Virginia State BBQ & Bluegrass Festival in Back Creek Valley.

A scheduled performance by the Charlie Daniels Band at the event, also known as Pickin' in the Panhandle, apparently has boosted interest, Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention & Visitors Bureau board member Ed Cimaglio told county commissioners on Thursday.

"We've got a record amount of (ticket) sales because of the entertainment (lineup)," said Cimaglio, who did not have exact numbers available.

Lemaster told commissioners he has contacted the West Virginia State Police and neighboring Jefferson County Sheriff's Department to possibly enlist their help with the Sept. 12 and 13 festival, which now is in its third year.

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Pickin' in the Panhandle, an outdoor, rain-or-shine event, is scheduled to be held at Lazy A Campground, a privately owned recreation area near Glengary.

While Lemaster said he has enjoyed past festivals and remains supportive of the event, he noted that roads leading to the relatively rural area in western Berkeley County off W.Va. 45 were not built for heavy traffic.

Lemaster said he has talked with the CVB about public safety concerns, but doesn't know what to expect because turnout is expected be much larger than in previous years. Turnout on the first day of last year's festival was dampened by heavy rain.

Cimaglio was encouraged by at least one county commissioner to consider budgeting for security and safety issues for future festivals.

Cimaglio told commissioners that Lemaster was allowing festival organizers to use barricades and that the CVB arranged for help with parking.

The Charlie Daniels Band is scheduled to take the stage Sept. 12 at 8 p.m.

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