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Upcoming Fly In Festival to be filled with award-winning bluegrass, old-time musicians

Aug 19 2021
Derek Halsey | Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON — Next week, the annual Fly In Festival will once again take place at the Robert Newlon Airport on the eastern edge of Huntington.

Located along the Ohio River, the venue will be ground central for live bluegrass and old-time music from Aug. 26-28.

With multiple permanently built stages and featuring live music along with skydiving, airplane tours, kayaking opportunities and acres of room for primitive camping, the Fly In Festival has become one of the most unique outdoor events in the United States. And with the Appalachian Uprising Music Festival now defunct and Rudyfest having moved to Morehead, Kentucky, next weekend’s musical throwdown has become the premier music festival in the Tri-State.

If You Go

The Fly In Festival

WHEN: Friday, Aug. 27 and Saturday, Aug. 28

WHERE: Robert Newlon Airport, 6090 Kyle Lane, Huntington

TICKETS: $50 weekend, $30 daily; primitive camping $20


The lineup of bands for this year’s Fly In Festival touts a combined 54 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) awards between the artists. On the old-time music side, between local legends the Bing Brothers featuring Jake Krack and other groups on the bill, there are countless festival band contest winners and individual instrument contest winners.

To add to that, National Guitar Champions Robin Kessinger and Robert Shafer will be on hand for the Robin Kessinger Instructional Workshop, followed by the West Virginia State Flatpick Guitar Contest on Saturday morning. Guitar luthier and picking legend Wayne Henderson will also take part in the contest festivities. On the fiddle side of things, the Fly In Festival will host the Clark Kessinger Memorial Fiddle Contest on Friday at noon. So, the call is out for guitarists and fiddlers to come and compete for the top prizes in each competition.

This year’s Fly In Festival begins Thursday, Aug. 26, when gates open at 1 p.m. A potluck dinner is on the slate, as well as open jams among festival attendees. Campers are welcome to set up their gear from that time forward as well.

Friday’s lineup will feature headliners Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley featuring bluegrass great Mike Bub. This band alone features over 20 IBMA Awards between them. Also performing on the first night of shows will be Don Rigsby, who has won three IBMA nods; Kenny and Amanda Smith, with Kenny a former National Guitar Champion and Amanda a previous IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year award winner; The Kentucky-Fied Pickers; Boone Mountain Bluegrass; Big Rock and the CandyAss Mountain Boys; String Therapy; Julie and Kelly Ray Davis; The Modock Rounders; and West Virginia fiddle legend Bobby Taylor.

Taylor is also the caretaker of two historic fiddles, one belonging to the great Clark Kessinger and another fiddle belonging to the acclaimed 20th century musician Ed Haley. Both instruments will be on hand at the festival.

Saturday’s bill features Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out. Moore is a multiple winner of the IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year Award. Danny Paisley is also an IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year winner who will bring his band Southern Grass to the event. Also scheduled are the previously mentioned Mountain State greats the Bing Brothers featuring Jake Krack, along with the veteran West Virginia bluegrass stompers the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys, Snakewinder, featuring Dave Bing, Danny Arthur and Scott Rucker, Southridge, Mud Hole Control, the Coal Cave Hollow Boys, Of The Dell, Robin and Dan Kessinger, Robert Shafer and mandolin whiz Johnny Staats, Doug and Carl Hepler and Wayne Henderson.

Besides the main permanent stage at Robert Newlon Airport, the venue’s Fly In Cafe, bar and restaurant will also be open during the festival. On Thursday, Aug. 26, the Fly In Cafe will also dedicate its new indoor stage in honor of the late Jim McCown, who died in October 2020 at age 80.

“On Thursday at 7:30 p.m., we are doing the dedication of the Jim McCown Memorial Fly In Stage,” said Tim Corbett, festival director, Barboursville police officer and bass player for the Bing Brothers featuring Jake Krack. “There will be live music featured throughout the year on this new indoor stage at the Fly In Cafe. Jim McCown would be the person that defines our festival and the goals of our festival. Robert Newlon Airport owner Carl Bailey knew Jim for 40-plus years through the world of aviation. Jim McCown served in the Air Force and had planes in airports found in three states. He was an airplane mechanic as well and sold a lot of the planes being flown at the Robert Newlon Airport. One of the pictures we have of Jim found by his wife, Ada, is from 1993 and has him standing in front of the old hangars here at the airport by a single-engine Cessna airplane that Carl still owns.

“We all knew Jim as a musician,” continues Corbett. “In the 1970s, many will remember Jim as the fiddler for the Outdoor Plumbing Company band that he played in with his wife, Ada, and others, at one point featuring his sons Andy and Danny. Jim was also a sound engineer who ran the sound for festivals across the country.”

The Fly In Festival benefits multiple organizations in the Tri-State.

“The proceeds of the Fly In Festival go to the Barboursville Police Canine Unit,” said Corbett. “They always have helped that department. Besides the canine unit, we also donate to the Honor Flight program and the local VFW. And this year, the oldest living World War II Medal of Honor winner Woody Williams will be on hand at the festival on Saturday. He is in his 90s and originally from Quiet Dell, West Virginia, and he fought with the United States Marine Corps in the Battle of Iwo Jima, winning the Medal of Honor and a Purple Heart, both given to him by President Truman. He is also one of the founders of the Woody Williams Foundation that helps Gold Star Families, who have had a son or daughter die in combat. In 2018, the U.S. Navy named the T-ESB 4 mobile base sea vessel in his honor. We are raising money for the Woody Williams Foundation on our festival Facebook page.”

More information can be found at