Huntington Music and Arts Festival week long events kick off Monday


File Photo

Louisville band, Nick Dittmeir and the Sawdusters performed in the 2016 Huntington Music and Arts Festival.

Will Izzo, Reporter

The eighth annual Huntington Music and Arts Festival continues Saturday with an entire day of music, art and food, but for those dedicated to Huntington’s art scene, HMAF starts Monday and does not stop until Sunday evening, with tons of events dedicated to every aspect of local culture, community and art.

Festival founder Ian Thornton has been involved with planning the festival since its conception in 2010. Eight years later, Thornton is still as hands on as he was in the beginning.

“Luckily, I’ve been able to get some more people to help me out in the years past, but you could call me the founder, or originator, or idiot who thought this was a good idea,” Thornton said.

At first, HMAF was not meant to be a weeklong celebration, despite the fact Thornton said the festival now encompasses 11 events in seven days.

“When we started HMAF the idea was that this great local music scene wasn’t getting fostered,” Thornton said. “It was all in the bars, sort of late-

night stuff. So, we had a great community who were sort of unaware of these bands we had in town because the only time you could see them was after 10:30 on a Friday night, in a bar.”

Inspired by other large art-centric festivals, Thornton said he knew HMAF was meant to evolve and find more things to keep people interested.

“I’ve always had this thought about great festivals like South By Southwest and FestivALL in Charleston, who encompass many different types, or genres, or collections of art,” Thornton said. “Art isn’t just music, art isn’t just visual art. So, every year I always try to add something new to the festival.”

Thornton said he is always thinking about how he can help make HMAF exciting, inclusive and above all, get as many community members involved as possible. During its infancy, the festival only had one to two extra events for fans, but since then, Thornton said he could have up to 15 events in his head that could easily fit into the normal HMAF schedule.

“Creativity breeds creativity and involvement breeds involvement,” Thornton said. “When people see the things we’re doing, every year it seems we get more people who want to get involved and want to do things.”

Thornton said he wants HMAF to always experience a slow growth and said he was weary of an over-saturated festival, so events are added slowl

y, year after year, as not to culture shock attendees. One of the newer HMAF events this year is a stand-up comedy night.

“These comedians have been forming this scene in Huntington for about three years now, really honing it in and giving it attention – while they are going to focus that event more to the people they know are going to go to the open mic night, we’re all promoting the entire week together,” Thornton said. “While each one has its own particular kind of styling and aim, all in all, the point is that HMAF is an entire week. Everyone is really on board with pushing every event and doing everything they can while being able to still go and target their specific audiences.”

Other events include an Appalachian HMAF kick-off event Monday at The Wild Ramp, located at West 14th Street and a pre-HMAF party at The Peddler, located on 3rd Avenue.  Thornton said there is a lot that goes into choosing a venue but things tend to figure themselves out.

“The Wild Ramp isn’t really known for live music, but they’re a really great, local and community business,” Thornton said. “Drew Hetzer at The Peddler has always been a supporter of local music, so it was an obvious choice to do a musical event there with someone like him. The point of these events is to spread them out through Huntington and bring attention to some of these businesses that people might not be aware of that are supporting art and supporting communities. We just talk it out and think about it and go from there. If you go too fast, you lose focus and it becomes difficult.”

Thornton said, like usual, the goal for HMAF is to expose people to something they’ve never seen or heard before.

“Everything is free aside from HMAF itself,” Thornton said. “I don’t want to exclude anybody –it’s all about inclusion with HMAF. Whether you’re one of the contributing artists, or a community member, we try to do things that even if it’s not your style, you can give it a chance and pick on something you didn’t know you were going to like.”

HMAF events include art exhibits at the Huntington Museum of Art, a 72-hour film festival and comedy night at Black Sheep Burrito & Brews; pre-parties at Heritage Station, The Peddler and Pullman Square; an open mic event at The Lantern, an after party at the V-Club and #WhyListen, a music party held by West Virginia Public Broadcasting, hosted by WVPB’s Joni Deutsch at Bahnhof WVrsthaus and Biergarten.

The eighth annual HMAF kicks off 12 p.m. Saturday with tunes until 10 p.m. This year, students can enter the festival at half-price with a student ID. Those attending the Marshall football game Saturday can also enter at half the ticket price when they present a stub from the game at the festival gates.

Will Izzo can be contacted at [email protected].

Huntington Music and Arts Fest Facebook.