Festival promises fun

September 26, 2007

If your weekend plans aren't firm yet, you might want to make room for one or more excursions to the Fortune-Williams Music Festival which gets underway Friday at Staunton's Frontier Culture Museum.

Now in its fifth year, the festival is named after local musical stars Jimmy Fortune (late of the Statler Brothers) and Robin and Linda Williams (who are familiar to devotees of Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion" radio show, with or without their "Fine Group.")

Ever since the festival found what appears to be a permanent home at the Frontier Culture Museum, it has provided music lovers with both treats and surprises. Past headliners have included (no surprise) Garrison Keillor. Last year's surprise addition to the lineup will be this year's headliner, as Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter fills in for the ailing Billy Joe Shaver. But aside from Big Name performers (including Fortune and the Williamses), the festival always serves up a heaping helping of eclectic musical styles from folk to rock, performed by some of the country's finest crafters of music. In addition to the headliners, this year's lineup includes Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, Cowboy Jack Clement, Adrienne Young, Billy Yates and Michael Martin Murphey. Whether any musical rabbits get pulled out of the hat is anybody's guess. Surprises are just that.

Although music is the main draw, the setting is another reason to make time to put the festival on your weekend agenda. If you haven't been to the Frontier Culture Museum (and it's surprising how many "locals" have not), you'll be pleased by what you discover. In addition to the more intimate and homey ambience that the museum grounds provide for the musical acts onstage, sampling the Americana that is on display there year around is its own reward.

After small beginnings in 2003 and 2004 with performances featured in various downtown Staunton locales, the Fortune-Williams Music Festival has just gotten bigger and better. It has never been a disappointment; your weekend will be a bit richer if you attend this year.

Opinions expressed in this feature represent the majority opinion of the newspaper's editorial board, consisting of: Roger Watson, president and publisher; David Fritz, executive editor; Cindy Corell, local editor; Jim McCloskey, editorial cartoonist; and Dennis Neal, opinions editor.