Gabe DeWitt is an artist, engineer, and mountaineer born and raised in Bruceton Mills, Preston County, and the Cheat River watershed. Gabe is loved at FOC for graciously donating his photos for our use. His photos capture Cheat Fest with such truth, that I wanted to introduce to the Cheat Fest community, the man behind the camera.
Since Gabe’s photos say things that words cannot, Gabe used photos and words to answer this series of questions that will hopefully help us get to know the perspective of a Cheat River native and a man with a talent for perspective.
What was it like growing up in the Cheat River watershed?
It gives and it takes..and gives.
My entire immediate family comes from the Cheat River watershed. My Mom (Kathy DeWitt, previously Overbeck), grew up in Albright, where my Grampa Vic was the post master and Grama Betty was a school teacher.
Aside – When my mom was a kid, almost every weekend there was a white water rafter or guide having dinner with her and her family. Vic and Betty Overbeck (my grandparents) welcomed them. Many boaters put in the river across from her house. My mom and aunts would would serve breakfast to the boaters at times at the Fire hall the Albright fire department.
In 1985, the Cheat River destroyed 110 of the 132 houses in Albright.. my mom’s house being one of them.
Fast forward to today, I frequent the Cheat River whenever possible…to swim along the Alley…
…boat down the Cheat Narrows…
…climb above Devils Den…
….hike on the Allegheny Trail…
…or craw through some of the hidden caves…
… the Cheat Canyon is an old and special place on this earth for everyone to enjoy and protect.
What are the three best things about Cheat Fest?
and the People.
Name one friend that you have made at Cheat Fest and how has that person influenced your life?
It’s the combined spirit of so many friends that makes Cheat Fest the special place that it is for me. I can’t name any one of them as the most influential,
but I can name a new friend from last year’s Cheat Fest, Mike Powell.
I had the opportunity to meet and get to know Mike during The Nature Conservancy assignment, and then had the pleasure of meeting his family and selling my photos along side his wife’s artwork in the Art Market at the festival.
Did you attend Cheat Fest as a child?
I didn’t start coming until college. My parents started going to Cheat Fest when I was in highschool, but my priorities were a bit different back then (the prom was always the first Saturday in May). My parents chose Cheat Fest over seeing me off on my prom dates..
If so, do you have any photos of it?
🙁 …sadly, no
But, here’s a cool photo of my lad at one of his first Cheat Festivals..
If so, do you think that it influenced who you are today? How?
While I may not have been brought up by going to the Festival, I grew up swimming and fishing in the Cheat River, and living in it’s watershed along the Big Sandy Creek.
I got Giardia once from the Big Sandy Creek when I was in second grade… apparently straight piping is still a thing in rural WV.
What is the Cheat River to you?
The Cheat River is at the headwaters of what I call home. It’s nature has been the same long before time immemorial. It’s a life giving, and a life taking organ of nature. The influence that is has on us is a direct result of what we put into her…all being part of the interdependent web of things…the Cheat River Festival is one of many ways that we try to give something good back to the Cheat River.
And of course, be it a small nook or a vast overlook, what is your favorite angle of the Cheat River watershed?
Oh that’s the hardest question… I don’t know. I would have to say it’s one of my Cheat Festival based images. There’s one aspect that my favorite Cheat Fest photos have in common, unguarded expressions of happiness.