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6,000 see Charlie Daniels at bluegrass, BBQ fest

September 12, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

GLENGARY, W.Va. -- Jimmy Hodge has been performing songs by the Charlie Daniels Band on a cruise ship for 11 years.

Never did the Hedgesville, W.Va., resident think the act he's covered as part of a country music show for Carnival Cruise Lines would take the stage in Berkeley County.

"I got off the cruise ship three days ago," Hodge said several minutes before the headline performers for Pickin' in the Panhandle, the West Virginia State BBQ & Bluegrass Festival, took the stage Saturday night.

Hodge was among an estimated crowd of about 6,000 people who turned out for the show at the Lazy A Campground off Back Creek Valley Road.

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Gov. Joe Manchin is expected to visit the festival grounds today and speak about the importance of such events to the state.

Gabriela Martin of Hedgesville said she came out to see the Charlie Daniels Band and "get some good food and barbecue."

"He's the biggest name, so I wanted to see him, I've never seen him live," Martin said. "I've seen Cadillac Sky here last year and they were good, too, so I'm looking forward to them also."

Donna Decker of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., said she arrived at the campground at 8 a.m. to get a front-row seat.

"It was worth every minute of it," Decker said.

At least 8,700 tickets for the festival have been sold, said Andrea Ball, executive director of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB).

"It's better than we expected," Ball said. "We deserve it, frankly, after (inclement weather in) the last two years."

"It's been a really good crowd," Berkeley County Sheriff's Department Capt. Dennis Streets said just before Charlie Daniels took the stage and began his show with "Drinkin' My Baby Goodbye."

No incidents or arrests were reported as of 8 p.m., and traffic in and out of the festival grounds had been smooth, Streets said.

In Manchin's visit today, he was expected to present the inaugural Governor's Cup trophy to the best professional barbecue team from West Virginia. But the winner, John Burke of Big John's BBQ, had to return to his home in Beckley, W.Va., for a family commitment, Ball said.

Burke, who was among six professional competitors for the Governor's Cup, won with pork tenderloin, according to festival officials.

Among 49 pro teams, Hambones by the Fire of Yorktown, Va., was the overall winner of the Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned competition and tops in the brisket category, according to results released by the CVB. Barbecue teams traveled from North Carolina, Illinois and a number of other states, according to festival organizers.

More than two dozen amateur teams are expected to compete today in the "backyard" barbecue competition.

Among bluegrass groups scheduled to perform today, The Patent Pending Band decided to keep its commitment to take the stage at the festival after member James D. Steptoe of Martinsburg, W.Va., died earlier this month.

"They felt it was a great way to honor Jim," Ball said.

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