Local Open Mic Night Wins Award at Create Your State Convening

Staff Report

PRINCETON, WV – The transformative power of arts was the focus of the Create Your State Convening held last Saturday, where the local Open Mic Night at Sterling Drive In received an award and recognition. 

Guests visited the Appalachian South Folklife Center and were later treated to a tour of Princeton’s Grassroots District located along Mercer Street. The tour demonstrated the transformative power of art on the community at large. 

Lori McKinney and husband Robert Blankenship were at an open mic night when they found each other and a new mission: to nurture and grow the power of bringing creative minds together. This began with creating their own open mic night, held each Monday for the past 15 years above the Riff Raff Arts Collective in Princeton. 

Following their creative path, McKinney and Blankenship went on to form the Create Your State program. Welch was selected as one of the CYS communities years ago after a WV Community Development HUB meeting. 

Local resident Derek Tyson worked with McKinney to secure a venue for Open Mic Night while Bill Hornick was brought onboard to provide sound for the event. Through the Create Your State program, a 10 month grant was secured to fund the expenses as well as production of flyers. 

Tyson and Hornick participated in a discussion panel alongside Williamson’s Open Mic Night creators Jim Pajarillo and Glen Simpson. McKinney led the discussion, highlighting the ups and downs and many learning experiences over the years. 

After the discussion, Tyson and Hornick were presented a Create Your State Changemaker award for their efforts in bringing live music to McDowell County. 

“It’s been a wonderful experience to see the talent of our community come out each month,” said OMN Host Derek Tyson. “The growth Bill and I have witnessed in our younger performers makes us proud each month. It wouldn’t be possible without the support of Harold and Vicki McBride, and we’re blessed to have this opportunity in our community.”

Open Mic Night at Sterling Drive In is nearing its third year of existence and is proudly sponsored by Sterling Drive In, The Welch News, Mr. Bill’s Light and Sound, and Tyson Enterprises, Inc. Any interested residents are encouraged to stop by each month on the second Friday beginning at 7:00 p.m.