“When Everyone Works Together Anything Is Possible”
An Interview with Robby Parsons
The Back Home Appalachian Arts & Music Festival is one of the premier events of its kind in West Virginia. That it runs seamlessly is a tribute to the many volunteers who do what needs to be done. Robby Parsons serves as both coach and point guard for this dedicated team.
Take us through some of the steps between coming up with the idea of the Back Home Festival and the event becoming a reality.
The idea for the Back Home Festival was hatched through my dream of hosting world class musicians in New Martinsville and Mayor Hunt’s vision of having an event that would literally bring natives of our town “back home.” When the mayor was the President of the Wetzel County CVB we worked together to figure out a way to meld both of our ideas together. It was from that that the Back Home Festival was born.
General Omar Bradley once said, “Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics.” What are some of the logistical problems that have to be solved for such a large event?
The main issue we worry about every year is flooding in the marina. As you know, that is where our tent campers are housed for Back Home weekend. We have been fortunate never to have a flooding situation occur during our event, but we have had floods the week prior. Thankfully, New Martinsville Parks & Recreation has always whipped the marina back in to shape in time for our event. We always have a back up plan in case the marina is not usable, but we haven’t had to execute that plan yet and we hope we never to have to. The other major obstacle we face each year is keeping the trash from thousands of attendees under control. That doesn’t cause me nearly as many nightmares though due to the fact that our cleanup crew has such capable leaders in Bobby Dawson and Bennie Hall. Those guys go above and beyond what we expect of them each and every year.
Looking back, what are some of the things you’ve learned from organizing the event?
The main thing I’ve learned is that when everyone works towards a common goal, anything is possible. If I told you that I don’t have sleepless nights in the months leading up to the festival, I’d be lying. But, all the things I worry about always work themselves out because the people we get as volunteers and the people we hire, always do their respective jobs as good, or better than we could ever expect. The other thing that I have learned is just how accepting our community is. I’m not oblivious to the fact that each year our little town is overrun with people who don’t exactly look like they live here, but our festival goers are always so complimentary about the hospitality our town puts forth towards them.
Who are the performers on your radar for next year?
I’m not really at liberty to say, but my plan is to branch out a little more into other genres of music in 2022. We will obviously still have some rock n’ roll and some bluegrass, but don’t be surprised if you see a reggae act in the mix next year.
You are a master musician. Tell us about your recent CD and how we can get a copy.
I don’t know that I would call myself a master musician, but I am indeed in the process of recording a few new albums. The one that is closest to being completed is a tribute album to Bob Dylan.
It features many guests including Dylan’s own violinist from the 1976 Desire album, Scarlet Rivera. It also features guest spots by legendary soul singer C.C. White who has recorded with acts such as Mavis Staples and Ben Harper, as well as a guest spot by keyboardist Carey Frank of the Tedeschi Trucks Band. That’s not even to mention all the local and regional musicians who will be featured on the album.
Who were some of your musical mentors?
First and foremost my late father and my late uncle Mike. My dad taught me all the basics and I took off from there. What my uncle Mike taught me was how to command an audience. Without those two guys I’d probably be an accountant or something.
Imagine money were no object. Who would be on your bucket list to bring to Back Home?
There are three acts I call about every year. Willie Nelson, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and Bob Dylan. The chance of us ever getting any of these acts is slim to none because they are anything other than cheap, but I still owe it to myself to call about them every year. If there are any sponsors reading this that want to throw in some money to make any of these acts a reality for 2022, feel free to reach out to me.
What are some of the events planned for the rest of the year?
We have various Hall of Fame inductions at the Wetzel County Museum; ChiliFest; Marble Fest; and our next big music show will be the Guns N’ Roses tribute band Nightrain at the Lincoln Theater in November.