Appalachian Festival returns to Frostburg

Special to the News Tribune
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FROSTBURG - Frostburg State University’s much-anticipated Appalachian Festival will return to campus for its 16th year from Thursday, Sept. 16, to Saturday, Sept. 18.

The free, family-friendly event brings together artists and craftspeople to celebrate all that makes the region unique – its history, culture, music and dance, folk arts, food and more – with performances, workshops, displays, discussions and activities.

This year’s event focuses on “The Push and Pull of Appalachia.”

The capstone event is a concert by The Honey Dewdrops in Frostburg’s historic Palace Theatre on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The Honey Dewdrops have long felt the push and pull between their original roots in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia and their current home in Baltimore. Their harmony-soaked songs, blended with the tones of guitar, banjo and mandolin and reflected in the group's songwriting, explore the beautiful and hard realities of today.

Tickets are $15 for adults and can be purchased at the door. The event is free to FSU students.

Events kick off in Frostburg’s historic Palace Theatre on Thursday at 7 p.m. with the film “The Mountain Minor.” Using Appalachian music as its theme, the film focuses on Appalachian out-migration and a longing for home. A post-film discussion with film writer and director Dale Farmer will follow the screening.

The festival’s Friday on-campus symposium continues the theme exploring “The Push and Pull of Appalachia.” Symposium discussions will explore what compels people to stay in or return to Appalachia, what pushes them to leave and how community leaders are working to create a more equitable, diverse and thriving region. Events begin at 1 p.m. with the panel discussion, “Choosing Appalachia.”

Recently released 2020 Census data shows that Appalachia suffered the steepest population loss in the entire country in the past decade, continuing a decades-long trend of population decline for the region. However, it is not uncommon for people who leave the region to return later in life – something that is much less frequently discussed. In this panel, four individuals who returned home to Appalachia discuss their reasons for leaving, their subsequent motivations for returning, and the benefits and challenges they experienced on coming home. At 2 p.m., students in IDIS 151 Experiencing Appalachia will continue the discussion, inviting participants to share their experiences in the region.

At 3 p.m., Deborah Weiner, author of “Coalfield Jews,” will present “Encountering Appalachia: A Look at the Jewish Experience.” This presentation will tell the story of the Jewish immigrants who made their way to the region and how they established small communities far from America’s Jewish centers. It will track how subsequent generations maintained Jewish life and explore the factors that led some to leave and some to remain.

A 4 p.m. panel discussion, “The Mountains Are Calling,” will focus on entrepreneurship and investment in the region. Throughout the region, entrepreneurs are investing in revitalizing Appalachia. Focusing on asset-based development, businesses that complement the area’s mountainous landscape and historical architecture are creating new opportunities for local residents and visitors. Come hear how Adventure Sports is reshaping the region, learn about the redevelopment of historic structures into contemporary living spaces and discover how the expansion of broadband technology sets the stage for positive growth in the region. Panelists include Steve Green of High Mountain Sports; Mandela Echefu of Wheelzup Adventures; Sean Mullaney; Redevelopment Real Estate; and Cheryl DeBerry, Broadband and Energy manager, Department of Technology and Communications, Garrett County Government.

At 5 p.m., Tim Newsby, author of “Bluegrass in Baltimore,” will share the story of Baltimore’s bluegrass traditions. The port city attracted rural migrants to work in the city's numerous blue-collar jobs, many of whom moved from West Virginia and other parts of Appalachia. Like other industrial cities in the Midwest, these immigrants brought their music with them. With this influx of Appalachian migrants, Baltimore found itself populated by some extraordinary musicians and was for a brief time the center of the bluegrass world.

Symposium presentations end with the 6 p.m. panel discussion “There and Here: Anti-Racist Activism in Appalachia.” With their ancestral roots in Garrett County, activist panelists will discuss their choices to pursue racial justice in Mountain Maryland while living outside of their home communities. From across county and state borders, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, panelists Chantelle Friend, Hannah Schroyer and Elizabeth Sines, the founders of Anti-Racist Appalachia, and Tifani Fisher, president of the Allegany County branch of NAACP, have reached into their deep social networks to organize almost entirely virtually. These Appalachian daughters will explore their upbringing in Appalachia and the influence it has on their activism, what kept their families here, why they chose to live and work in different communities and what pulls them to work here for social change. The event closes with a 7 p.m. dinnertime performance and sing-along with Sparky and Rhonda Rucker and Michael and Carrie Kline.

Saturday’s events feature two music stages with performances on the Compton Stage by Bear Hill Bluegrass, The Jesse Milnes, Emily Miller and Becky Hill Show, the Ken and Brad Kolodner Quartet, Black Diamond, Crandall Creek, The Barnstormers and RockCandy Cloggers, Critton Hollow, Jeff and Myles Thomas, the Hickory Bottom Band, Old Towne Strings, and Sparky and Rhonda Rucker. Performances on the Thomas Automotive Stage include Church Folk, the Time Travelers, Pete Hobbie and Dakota Karper, the Davis Bradley Duo, Brendan Hearn and Dakota Karper, Loretta Hummel and Paul Dix, Jay Smar, Black Guy Fawkes, the Rev. Frankie, Michael and Carrie Kline, and Greg Latta.

Additional performance areas include the Old Main Interactive Stage area with music by the Arion Band; a poetry reading with the Center for Literary Arts; storytelling with Ilene Evans, Rich Knoblich, Mikalena Zuckett, Jo Ann Dadisman, and Otto and Katie Ross; and a harmony-singing workshop with The Honey Dewdrops’ Kagey Parrish and Laura Wortman.

The Family Stage provides something for children of all ages, featuring interactive performances by Cowboy Hay, Ray Owen, the Sunnyland Music Jug Band and a Kindermusik session with Marie Weddle. Children can also learn how to play marbles from the area’s championship-quality players.

Hands-on workshops and presentations can be found in the Folkways and Explorations Tent. The Folkways Tent offers programs on Appalachian clogging, Mountain Voices and African American Appalachian traditions, percussive dance, Baltimore’s bluegrass scene and Appalachian punk.

The Explorations Tent offers presentations on the region’s watershed and its trout population, the Department of Natural Resources conservation efforts, the legacy of Joe Maphis – King of Strings, “Weird Western Maryland” with Andy Duncan, medicinal plants and restorative agriculture.

More than a dozen artisans will be there to demonstrate traditions, including quilting, the fiber arts, stained glass, bee keeping, pottery, jewelry making, rug hooking, tie-dye with natural dyes, herbal medicine and more.

The festival and its programming are supported in part by the Maryland Traditions Program of the Maryland State Arts Council, FSU’s Cultural Events Series, the FSU Foundation, the city of Frostburg, FrostburgFirst and Thomas Automotive.

To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, masks are expected to be worn on campus by unvaccinated individuals when social distancing is not possible. Visitors to campus must visit www.frostburg.edu/checkin for symptom monitoring.

For more information, visit the festival’s website at www.frostburg.edu/events/afestival.