Pickin' and grinnin'

From left, Halie Lynn, Randy Sluss and Andromeda Strong were pickin’ and grinnin’ on the front lawn of the Southwest Virginia Museum while waiting to go on stage at Saturday’s Gathering in the Gap.

Early evening thunderstorms drenched Big Stone Gap and this year’s Gathering in the Gap main stage concert, but couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the many young — and not so young — musicians who paraded across three stages for the instrument and songwriting competitions and acoustic arbor performances.

The array of musicians on the acoustic arbor stage throughout the day Saturday included such veterans as Ron Short and Nancy “Rhodyjane” Meador and the youngsters who participate in the Wise JAMS program.

Amelia Townsend and her long-traveled Shoestring Theatre troupe began the day in Keokee as the northern Virginia cast members toured the hometown of the late Dink Shackleford. Townsend and Shackleford penned the play based on his life, “I Ain’t Made That Way,” which premiered in Fairfax in April before its local premier on the Gathering in the Gap competition stage Saturday afternoon in front of a capacity crowd.

Shortly after the play ended, thunder, lightning and buckets of rain moved into the area, forcing the Gathering’s headline acts, Dave Eggar & Deoro and the Steep Canyon Rangers, inside the Southwest Virginia Museum.

Gathering in the Gap’s music competitions drew 46 entries, up from last year’s 27.

Players from three states — North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia — participated, emcee Joey O’Quinn said.

Judges picked the top musicians in adult and youth categories for banjo, fiddle, guitar and mandolin. The band categories had fewer competitors, with No Cover taking bluegrass honors and the Sons of Liberty — the young Smith brothers — taking old-time honors.

Instrument winners were:


Adult: Thomas Cassell, first; Peyton Kendrick, second; Cori James, third.

Youth: Claire Childress, first; Madison Childress, second; Hannah Childress, third.


Adult: Glenn Carver, first; J.R. Quesenberry, second; Peyton Kendrick, third.

Youth: Madison Childress, first; Claire Childress, second.


Adult: Matthew Bright, first; Thomas Bright, second.

Youth: Andi Strong, first; Hannah Childress, second; Claire Childress, third.


Adult: Cori James, first.

Youth: Noah Smith, first; Maelee Taylor, second; Joshua Smith, third.


The songwriting competition unfolded on the main stage early Saturday afternoon. Ketasha Goodwin of Jonesville’s “Lorenzo” earned the top prize. Big Stone native Travis Kern, now of Danville, Ky. placed second with “The Coal’s Low.” And Big Stone Gap’s Madison Childress — one of the Childress family of musicians — placed third with “Life Without You.”