Why Healing Appalachia decided to stay in WV for 2024 & what to expect this year

By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV

After rumors swirled in 2023 that Healing Appalachia was moving to Kentucky, organizers of the benefit concert announced recently that the famed festival will return to the Greenbrier Valley on September 19-21, 2024. 

“The bottom line is our community supports us,” says Charlie Hatcher, Program Director for Healing Appalachia. “We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do and we have the ability to do it.”

Kara Dense, Director of the Greenbrier Convention & Visitors Bureau, said, “We’re excited to welcome Healing Appalachia back to the State Fair of West Virginia. This event draws thousands to our region, supporting our local businesses and restaurants as festival-goers explore all we have to offer. Our sincere gratitude to Tyler Childers and his team for choosing the Greenbrier Valley once again.”

Created in the spirit of Farm Aid, it’s a concert benefiting recovery efforts in Appalachia, which has been hardest hit by the opioid crisis. 

Healing Appalachia is the state’s third largest event, producing an economic impact of $4 million in 2023 alone and donating nearly $700,000 to drugprevention, recovery and wellness-based organizations all over Appalachia since its inception in 2018Hatcher admits he would “like to see more help from the powers that be” in the state. Overall, he is proud of the difference the concert makes each year. 

While the concert could move to Kentucky in the future, no matter where it’s held…organizers say the mission will not change. It will remain committed to supporting recovery efforts throughout Appalachia.

What to expect in 2024? 

Each year, Healing Appalachia grows bigger and attracts better talent. Hatcher says they’ve set a high bar and have no plans to back off now. 

“We’ll only go up every year,” he says. 

But he concedes that they do face unique challenges. 

“West Virginia isn’t on the way to a lot of places,” he says, for example. “Flying in is difficult. A lot of these artists are booked out in advance.”

Yet, year after year they’ve been able to bring in top artists like Tyler Childers, Jason Isbell, Trey Anastasio, Charles Wesley Godwin, and Arlo McKinley. 

“It’s not just a concert,” Hatcher adds. “It’s about changing lives.” 

So in 2024, attendees can expect to see an increased focus on mental health and substance use services. 

Last year’s free Wednesday night concert will also return in 2024, filled with local and state artists on the rise. 

Hatcher is also in talks with Mayor Beverly White and officials from the CIty of Lewisburg to offer a preview concert downtown this July. “It will allow us to show people on a smaller scale who we are and what we do,” Hatcher says.  

Additionally, organizers are excited to engage with more local restaurants this year. “Recovery Village” is an on-site camping area for all the volunteers who run the concert and are in active recovery. 

“I eat breakfast there every day during the show,” Hatcher says. “Just sitting down and listening is a big thing. This year, there’s several new restaurants who will sit down and break bread with folks in Recovery Village.” 

Hatcher says it’s an honor for him and his nonprofit board, who run the show, to be able to serve the community and folks in recovery all year long. 

Why it matters

“It’s not getting any better,” Hatcher says of the substance use crisis across the state. “Now it’s carfentanil, scary stuff. But we’ll keep listening and giving someone a hug and telling them we love them. We mean it.” 

“I think it is paramount we continue recovery efforts because we’re seeing a record number of people die in the United States from overdoses and Substance Use Disorder, a preventive disease,” says Dave Lavender, president of the board for Hope in the HIlls. “According to a recent NPR Story “For the first time in U.S. history, fatal overdoses peaked above 112,000 deaths in 2023, with young people and people of color among the hardest hit. Drug policy experts, and people living with addiction, say the magnitude of this calamity now eclipses every previous drug epidemic, from crack cocaine in the 1980s to the prescription opioid crisis of the 2000s.”

 “The good news is that SUD is a treatable disease,” Lavender continues. “It just doesn’t get better by ignoring it and shunning people. At Hope in the Hills, we feel like we can do our small part to make things better by embracing, by making community with, and by celebrating folks in recovery. We’re happy to say that Tammy Jordan’s words and mantra of building ‘Communities of Healing,’ is truly growing around West Virginia and Appalachia through a quilted network of caring and astute folks in government, a non-profits, businesses and citizens who know that folks suffering from SUD are our brothers, mothers, sisters, cousins and that we only get better as a society when we make room in the inn for folks struggling with addiction. We full-throated believe there is no ‘us and them.’ It is just us.”

Stay tuned to RealWV for updates on artist announcements for this year’s show as organizers unveil them later this year. 


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