The Best of Morgantown 2012
The people have spoken. From the best Mexican food and first date spot to Morgantown's favorite coffee shops and the best place to change your oil, we bring you more than 70 of the city's most prized places and pastimes, as decided by you, the readers.
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BEST LOCAL BAND
For more than a decade, the members of The Hillbilly Gypsies have roused audiences with old-fashioned barn-party music. When Dave Asti picks furiously on his banjo strings, Joey Damiano tugs away at his upright bass. Ty breaks in with his fast fiddle, and Trae Buckner strums his guitar while his wife, Jamie-Lynn, sings. The crowd responds by jumping to its feet. “We have a certain reputation,” says frontman Trae.
The band’s origins trace back to when the members attended Wednesday night jam sessions with Keith McManus at the West Virginia Brewing Company in Morgantown. The popular sessions drew a great amount of interest as well as large crowds. “It got really busy. There were almost 40 guitar players—a lot of strumming, so it was hard to hear what was going on,” Trae says. “So we got together with a few friends and practiced on the side, and it went from there.”
No one in the group imagined that those jam sessions would turn out the way they did. “We just did it to have fun. I didn’t really expect anything out of it. We just hoped to get something to eat, have a couple of beers, and hopefully entertain somebody,” Trae says.
Trae describes the band’s sound as old-time Appalachian mountain music with a twist. A decade after it began, The Hillbilly Gypsies plays large festivals and has appeared on WV Public Radio’s Mountain Stage, in addition to touring across the U.S. The band has four studio albums and one live recording—all of it done on their own. —ANDREW BARNES
BEST LOCAL ARTIST
“Nature is my biggest muse,” says Eddie Maier, or Eddie Spaghetti as he is known around town.
Eddie is a local printmaker who works with woodcuts. The carved surface is inked, followed by printing on handmade paper. Eddie says the beauty of his work comes from the realization that the first art by humans was the handprint. “It’s the same concept, raised areas are what makes the image,” he says.
After high school, Eddie went to college, but ended up taking a job at Yellowstone National Park with his brother before he finished undergrad. During that time, his brother passed away in a car accident. “It was shocking,” he says. “His accident made me realize that you only get one chance at this life.”
Eddie began to travel. He went back to school and studied in Australia, where he learned his trade. Then, he traveled to Europe, and he eventually found himself living in England. “I traveled for inspiration, and just to see what the world was like,” he says. His work gave him the means to travel. “I could make money here and there,” he says. “My work is light and portable; I carried a sketchbook everywhere.”
In England, Eddie worked at a pub to get by. “I saw people every day out on the streets selling their crafts, and I thought I’d give it a try.” So he made a couple of prints and hung them on a church wall, and waited. “I sat there for four hours, lots of people walked by,” he says. Finally, someone stopped, and Eddie sold his first piece. “It gave me hope.”
After England, Eddie moved to Pittsburgh, where he set up a table on the lawn outside of Carnegie. “I’d hang my art up on the trees, and sell it just like that.”
It wasn’t until after 9/11 that Eddie came to Morgantown. “I’ve never been treated so kindly anywhere else in the world,” he says, adding that the college town was where he was meant to be. He finished his undergrad at WVU in printmaking, and he now sells his art locally while teaching workshops and as a substitute. He is married with two children. —ANTONIA CEKADA
BEST ART SPOT
270 Walnut Street; 304.296.0163; wvcraft.com
Appalachian Gallery is known for doing beautiful framing, but they also have a great gallery and gift shop showcasing the best in art and crafts by West Virginians.
Monongalia Arts Center
107 High Street; 304.292.3325; monartscenter.com
The historic Monongalia Arts Center (or MAC) is home to multiple galleries, artists’ workspace, and a theater. Check out an exhibit, take a class, or reserve one of the spaces for your own special event.
Wine & Jazz
4-H Camp Road; wvwineandjazz.com
For years, the West Virginia Wine & Jazz Festival has brought thousands of people to Camp Muffly, just off of the Goshen Road exit on Interstate 79, to set up blankets and chairs and settle in for a day of music and wine tasting. This two-day event held every September is hands-down Morgantown’s favorite festival. Admission gets you a wine glass and corkscrew, not to mention seemingly unlimited samples of wine from some of the state’s finest wineries. Take a sip or buy a bottle and cozy up in the grass for a relaxing afternoon.
BEST MOVIE THEATER
1001 Mountaineer Drive; 304.598.5890
With its convenient location behind the University Town Center shopping plaza, Hollywood Theaters is Morgantown’s preferred movie theater, as decided by our readers. The theater opened in 2005. “We have 12 screens and show about 45 movies a day,” says Emily Davis, theater manager. The theater is in the process of turning all of its screens into digital screens allowing viewers to enjoy high definition.
Along with buttery popcorn, cheesy nachos, and a wide assortment of candy, there is also an arcade area in the lobby. “We’re really known for our customer service here at Hollywood. We keep it a family-oriented atmosphere,” Emily says. The theater opens around noon or 1 p.m. depending on the movie schedule. The last movie is shown at 10:15 p.m. —ANTONIA CEKADA
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