By Brandi Underwood
The ribbon was cut and the stage was christened Thursday evening as ACE Adventure Resort officially unveiled its new 12,500-capacity festival ground on the resort’s Mountaintop West Campground near Oak Hill at an event that also served as the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Business after Hours.
What was formerly a World War II-era settling pond has been transformed over the past nine months into a festival ground that ACE hopes will draw more visitors to southern West Virginia in the coming years. This weekend marked the first of many music festivals to come, said Jerry Cook, president and managing partner of ACE.
“Music has a really unique way of connecting people, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Cook.
The inaugural Mountain Music Festival, held over the weekend, was a vision nearly 15 years in the making, said Cook, and was made possible only in October when the Fayette County Commission modified its mass gathering ordinance, which formerly hindered the project’s development.
While ACE and whitewater are nearly synonymous, ACE’s marketing director Beth Gill said the festival ground construction is something intended to help the company capture a larger audience.
“As the numbers in whitewater rafting decline … we’ve been looking for other ways to draw new people to this area,” said Gill. “The festival (audience) age range is right for us, their interest level in the outdoors is right for us, so it’s actually a really awesome fit to introduce them to what else ACE has to offer.”
With the goal of blending the realms of music and outdoor recreation, Cook said he hopes the festival ground will continue ACE’s tradition of having fun.
“Our philosophy is all about celebration,” said Cook.
“We want to have bands that make you stomp your foot, make you smile and laugh, and then the next day you go for a mountain bike ride and continue the celebration.”
Flanked by a 100-acre campground, the festival ground lends itself to accommodating those looking for both evening entertainment and a place to pop a tent and stay for a few days while further enjoying the outdoor activities ACE offers.
Cook said the property has the capacity for additional development, and ACE intends to expand the festival ground in the future to include multiple stages.
“We could build multiple stages, as many as we need to,” said Cook. “The goal is to make this one of the East’s biggest outdoor musical festivals.”
Cook said the inaugural Mountain Music Festival was designed to educate ACE on what the public wants to hear and how to refine the festival ground to best accommodate the influx of visitors.
“We kind of like that indie, funk, bluegrass and stompgrass genre,” said Cook, which was the style of music featured at the weekend’s festival.
Local favorites The Wild Rumpus, The Boatmen, Possum Holler Glee Club and Black King Coal kicked off the festival Thursday night, and 10 more bands were to perform on Friday and Saturday evenings.
While the potential economic impact is yet to be known, Cook said he thinks that tapping into the “music festival niche” will bring a different crowd of tourists to southern West Virginia.
“I think music brings a different reason and, to some extent, a different kind of person,” said Cook.
“What we want to do is bring people to southern West Virginia to celebrate, to laugh, to dance, to zip line, to rock climb, to paintball, to raft … and just have some fun.”
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org