BIG STONE GAP, Va. (WJHL) – The award-winning Blue Highway Fest returned to Big Stone Gap this week for its second year. The festival aims to celebrate the music that defines the regional area.

“It’s a celebration of American culture of the area,” said Co-organizer Larry Roberts, “And the music that comes from here, and it goes back many years.”

Also part of celebrating the region, the fest looks at bringing crowds back to Big Stone Gap.

“We’re going back to our roots,” said Co-Organizer George Roat. “With the music and reminding everybody of what a wonderful musical culture exists here. And why this is a great place to be.”

The festival was recently named the ‘2023 Event of the Year’ by the International Bluegrass Music Association. Roat and Roberts agree they can’t take all the credit for the award.

“First and foremost, I think it’s a bit of a tribute for the region and the area,” Roat said. “But I also think it’s a tribute to Blue Highway, our host group. And I think it’s a little bit of recognition of just how much the industry respects them and appreciates them for the years and years that they’ve been playing music.”

The members of Blue Highway said the fans who attend are what make the festival a success.

“Just this town, they have gotten behind this festival in a way that we never imagined,” said one of Blue Highway’s lead vocalists Wayne Taylor. “So this whole thing would have never happened if it weren’t for the folks in this town.”

“I think the volunteers and just the execution,” said Blue Highway member Gary Hulltman. “It all just seems like friends and family.”

Friday’s lineup ended with a performance by the Steeldrivers. The group said they’re happy to be able to perform alongside their friends.

“We’re excited to get to see a lot of our friends and hear a lot of their great music,” said Tammy Rogers, the band’s fiddle player. “So to me, that’s what’s unique about these types of festivals is we actually get to see a lot of our friends that otherwise we don’t get to see.”

Organizers say they are already beginning to plan next year’s event.