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23rd annual Cheat River Festival begins Friday


The Exponent Telegram

KINGWOOD, W.Va. — Friends of the Cheat is putting the final touches on the 23rd annual Cheat River Festival. The music and arts festival celebrating the Cheat River will take place Friday and Saturday.

“This year, we are extending the event by a day and starting on Friday,” Cheat Fest coordinator Ellie Bell said. “We are going to have musical acts, and the vendor market will be open.”

“We are hoping with this addition of Friday, we will highlight the Cheat Canyon Down River Race,” Bell said. “We will also have the race party, VIP and volunteer party.”

The Cheat Canyon Down River Race begins right above the festival grounds at Laurel Highland Outfitters and ends in Jenkinsburg.

“It is about a 10-mile race through the canyon,” Bell said. “And it is one of the largest race starts in the country. We usually have around 100 racers for the water race.

“The race begins at 5 p.m., but, for those who want to register the day of the event, registration opens at 1 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.”

Friday’s festival events will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the festival grounds, with three bands scheduled to play, and will end at 10 p.m.

On Saturday, the day’s events will begin with the Cheat Fest 5K at the Preston County Country Club at 10 a.m. The bands will begin to play around 11:30 a.m. when the festival grounds open.

“The festival has really grown over the past 23 years,” Bell said. “What began as a small gathering of people to talk about restoring the Cheat River to be viable is now a large two-day festival with more than 3,800 people attending.”

“How many people attend is totally dependent on the weather,” Pitzer said. “When there is really nice weather, we have a fantastic attendance. However, we always plan the festival based on prior years, especially ones with rain.”

Bell said there is something at the festival for all family members — young and old. This year, the children’s tent theme is “Water Unites Us.”

“There will be arts and crafts made out of recycled materials, a mural and something new this year will be acid mine drainage tie-dye,” Bell said. “Acid mine drainage stains the rocks in the river and streams orange, so there will be orange tie-dye shirts.”

Bell said the festival is the largest fundraiser Friends of the Cheat has annually.

“We raise around $50,000 a year from this one festival,” Bell said. “The money goes toward project development, water monitoring, acid mine drainage citizen science, river access for the public and the rail trails that we are developing, as well as office expenses that are not covered by grant money.”

Tickets will be sold at the gate for $10 Friday night and for $20 Saturday.

Camping is not included in entry, but Teeter’s Campground and Cheat Canyon Campground are a short walk from the festival site. Please note: Glass bottles and pets are strictly prohibited while camping.

Learn more about the festival or volunteering at

Tickets are available online until Thursday at

Pre-sale tickets — Friday, $5; Saturday, $15. Gate tickets — Friday, $10; Saturday, $20. Kids 12 and under are free.

Tickets are also available at the following area establishments: Brew Ha Ha Café, Kingwood; Friends of the Cheat offices, Kingwood; Black Bear Burritos (downtown and Evansdale), Morgantown; Morgantown Brewing Company, Morgantown; and Pathfinder, Morgantown.

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