Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Northern Virginia on the Shenandoah River, the town of Front Royal, VA came alive with roots music as Appaloosa Festival kicked off this Labor Day weekend. Hosted by Celtic rock sensation Scythian in the hometown of founders Dan and Alex Fedoryka, Appaloosa is one of the fastest-growing roots music festivals in the nation, growing from just over 1,000 in attendance four years ago to more than 6,000 expected to attend in 2018.
The festival drew a diverse crowd consisting of hardcore festival goers, fans who came to see specific groups, college students from around the region, and families with young children. Appaloosa offered a little something for everyone – whether that was camping, workshops with the bands who were playing the festival, food and drink, and late-night jams in the clubhouse featuring close-up encounters with the artists.
Music ranged in style from straight-ahead bluegrass to Irish/Celtic to reggae-inspired acts, which meant there was something for everyone, but with enough shared roots to discover new music that one could enjoy.
Some of the highlights of the first day of the festival included Charlotte, NC-based New Familiars, Nashville’s Humming House, and hometown favorite Scythian. Other artists on Saturday’s schedule included Jack Dunlap Band, Kentucky Avenue, Hillbilly Thomists, Ben-David Warner, Gina Clowes Project, Tajci, and Town Mountain. Gaelic Storm headlined the first night.
One of the striking details of Appaloosa was its laid-back, open, and hospitable atmosphere. The volunteers and staff were genuinely happy to be there and interact with guests. As I was strolling around the festival, Scythian’s Dan Fedoryka went out of his way to introduce himself and thank me for being there as if we were old friends. It was refreshing to feel welcome and at home while I was there.