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Annual picnic slated for July 10

By Staff | Jul 6, 2011

The Mountain State Bluegrass Express will continue the Bluegrass music tradition, performing at 7 p.m. during the Picnic In the Park. Pictured are the members of the group, Ed Hildebrand, Art Trippett, Ron McCauley, and Al Spencer.

The Annual Picnic In the Park will be held at the Sistersville City Park on July 10.

Food and craft booths, games and other activities will begin at noon with entertainment being scheduled throughout the day until the fireworks display begins at about 9:30 p.m.

The Sistersville Ferry will be providing a free trip to the Ohio side of the river for those interested.

The fireworks display will be handled by Zambelli Fireworks of New Castle, Pa. Donations are still needed to pay for the fireworks package, and anyone wishing to donate to the fund can contact Barbara Vincent at 304-652-2939.

Also, any group or individual wishing to set up a booth of any type is also welcome and should contact Vincent for information.

Free cake and ice cream, provided by the Sistersville IGA, will be provided to all who attend.

The Sistersville VFW and American Legion will hold a flag ceremony at 1:30 p.m. with Dan Henthorn leading the audience in the singing of the National Anthem.

Swimming at the Sistersville City Pool will cost $1 the day of the Picnic in the Park and the concession stand at the large shelter will be selling Coleman’s Fish sandwiches along with their other fare.

Entertainment for the evening will provided by Mountain State Bluegrass Express. The group will perform on the park stage at 7 p.m.

The Mountain State Bluegrass Express was originally formed in 1971 as a group that brought to their audiences the great Bluegrass Music of the 40s and 50s.

Continuing the Bluegrass Music Tradition, the 2011 group brings all music fans the same great hard-driving Bluegrass Music of the past as well as fresh versions of modern favorites. The group always has new surprises that will certainly entertain grandparents, grandchildren and everybody in-between.

Present members of the group include Ed Hildebrand, Art Trippett, Ron McCauley, and Al Spencer.

Hildebrand was born and raised in the Parkersburg area. He started violin lessons in the fourth grade. It wasn’t very long before he was playing gospel music in church with his mother, who was a singer and musician, playing the piano and the Hawaiian guitar.

As a teenager, Hildebrand played with a gospel group for approximately one year. He played in school orchestras throughout his school years.

After a break of 15 years to start a family and establish his own business, Hildebrand started playing again. During the last 20 years, he has played with the Evergreen Community Orchestra. Also, he has played in the “pit” orchestra for musical productions at the Parkersburg Actors Guild.

Two years ago, he became interested in bluegrass music. He started attending festivals. Participating in jam sessions, private lessons and clinics at the Augusta event have increased Hildebrand’s interest.

It was not until Al Spencer talked with him at a bluegrass show, that he had any serious thoughts about officially entering into the world of “bluegrass fiddler.”

Spencer and the other members of the Mountain State Bluegrass Express talked with Hildebrand, discussing at length their willingness to work with him, that his fiddling dreams might become reality.

Spencer stated, “Ed has only been with us a few months, but his willingness to learn and work hard has made him a valuable asset to the group.”

Hildebrand is the owner of Hildebrand Insurance and Financial Services, an agency that specializes in life/health insurance brokerage and financial planning.

He and his wife, Sarah have been married for 34 years. They are the proud parents of four married children and seven grandchildren. They reside in Parkersburg.

Trippett was born in Ventura, Calif. in 1945. His father was in The United States Navy Seabees located there. When he was two months old his mother returned with him to Parkersburg, awaiting his fathers discharge. Trippett lived in the city of Parkersburg until he was four and then moved to a nearby farm where his 91-year-old mother, a retired school teacher, lives today. This farm is the site for the well known 4th of July “Picking Party” that he and another band member have held for 12 years.

Trippett retired from GE Plastics near Parkersburg as their Quality Coordinator in 2002, after 32 years of service.

He has stated that three folks from that company encouraged him with his bluegrass music. They were, Darrel McCumbers, Ron Workman, and Dick Powell.

Trippett’s first exposure to music was with school friends, The Daily Family, who were very good musicians. Later, the Pastor of the Red Hill E.U.B. Church, J. C. Foster Jr. worked with him on singing harmony in the youth choir. This youth choir traveled and sang for folks in the Wood County area. Trippett still sings what he calls “Congregational Bass” in the Baptist Temple in Parkersburg and works with the youth there teaching them old songs that he remembers when he was young.

Trippett was asked to become a member of The Mountain State Bluegrass Express in February of 2010. His long time ambition has been to play the upright bass and sing. For 2011, Trippett has become the full time bass player while singing lead and harmony.

The group heard about Trippett from Hildebrand, the group’s fiddle player, who has been Trippett’s life-long friend. Trippett said that he is truly looking forward to the great times ahead being a part of the group.

McCauley was born and raised in Barbour County, W.Va., where he grew up in a country home, filled with love and strong values. He was always surrounded with music by many members of my family.

McCauley said, “My father loves bluegrass and gospel music, and he has always been a great influence on my music. We had many great times together as he taught me to play the guitar, when I was a youngster.”

A Red Smiley fan, McCauley used his example to play a solid smooth rhythm guitar.

He recalled that his familyreally enjoyed singing and playing together in their home and on many occasions in their home church. “My memory recalls the pleasurable times that we had singing in our car, as we traveled down the highway.”

In his teenage years, McCauley played guitarin his high school stage band. “I learned a lot from the instructor that extended my guitar playing abilities into another style,” he said.

In theearly 1970s,McCauley entered college,and it become necessary for him to work to financially support his studies. “For this period of time, I was extremely limited with time for music. I played some acoustic country music with friends in jam sessions and gatherings during my last year in college and a short time following college graduation. The new world of full time work, dating, and later, marriage, left no time for my music,” he said.

Still a music enthusiast, McCauley would occasionally attend a bluegrass concert, but he didn’t play againuntil 2003, the year which marked a new beginning and passion for the music.

At mid-year 2006, McCauley was asked to join The Mountain State Bluegrass Express. Since that date, he has been having a great time. “This is my firstexperience as a member of a band, and I am learning daily,” he said.

Currently, McCauley plays rhythm guitar and sings lead with the band, having aspirations of building my music experience with this group of fine musicians.He commented, “I love this music called bluegrasswith more passion than ever!”

In addition to my passion for bluegrass, McCauley owns and operates Amish Traditions in Clarksburg, W.Va.,where he retails handcrafted, solid oak furniture. He also has “The Music Corner” at the same facilities where he promotes bluegrass music by offering musical instruments, accessories, and bluegrass CDs.

Spencer was born in the hills of Tyler County in 1942. Old Time and Gospel music surrounded him as a youngster. His parents, Harley and Ruth Spencer, were involved in the entertainment business on radio, television, music festivals, political shows, and more. They were known by two names in those days, “The Spencer Kids” when just the two performed, and “The Spencer Family Band” when others would join them.

Spencer’s father, Harley, was a great tenor banjo player that was twice the West Virginia State Banjo Champion. His mother was always by his father’s side playing really solid rhythm guitar. They played together for 50 years. Both passed away in 2001.

His parents thoroughly enjoyed the music of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and would go to all shows that were within driving distance of their home. Spencer stated, “At a very early age, I was awestruck by the sound of Earl Scruggs playing banjo. I still get “goose bumps”, when I hear Earl Scruggs play.

Spencer has been working at “Scruggs Style” playing for nearly of 50 years.

Spencer is well-known today for his hard driving banjo style, lead singing, and harmony singing with other members of the group. It is really evident, when you watch him play, that he is a person who tremendously enjoys playing the banjo and singing.

Many folks have mentioned over the years that they never know which banjo Spencer is going to be playing during a performance. In the very early years of his playing, his primary banjo was a pre-war Epiphone Arch Top Recording “A” that he has related, “The sound of this banjo would drive a straw through a fence post.” In recent years, he plays older pre-war flatheads and his own custom banjos.

In the early 70s, Spencer was the inventor of the “Acoustic Fiberglass” banjo tone rim which is utilized in his custom series banjos. In 2003, his interests in “Acoustic Fiberglass” was expanded. His latest banjo tone rims and resonators are characterized by the tremendous properties of carbon fiber technology in their construction. He recently stated that the latest two banjo’s built in 2007 are the best banjo’s he has ever played.

In the spring of 2004, Spencer retired after 38 years as an Engineer with PPG Industries and began focusing on his bluegrass interests.

Plan to attend the celebration, bring lawn chairs, enjoy the fun, and visit with friends at the park.