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A Celebration of Appalachia

Bluefield College celebrated the history, people, music, food and traditions of Appalachia and the culture and influence of coal with a series of activities throughout the month of April, including a daylong Appalachian Festival, April 8.

Student Marketing Associate Whitney Browning

April 20, 2017

Photos by BC student marketing associate Stephanie Dunning.


View more than a hundred additional photos from the Celebration of Appalachia.






Read about previous Celebrations of Appalachia.








Photos by BC student marketing associate Stephanie Dunning.


View more than a hundred additional photos from the Celebration of Appalachia.


Established in the fall of 2011, the college’s annual Celebration of Appalachia began as a series of lectures, concerts, exhibits, discussions, movies, theatre, tours, festivals, and other educational and entertaining activities designed to honor the Appalachian heritage. The marquee event, the Appalachian Festival, began in the spring of 2012 to further celebrate the history, culture, people and traditions of Appalachia with music, art, crafts, cuisine, literature and discourse. Acknowledging the importance of coal to the region, the event became A Celebration of Appalachian Heritage and Coal Culture this spring.


The school kicked off this year’s celebration, April 3, with the Appalachian Tale Spinner, featuring Charles Reese, BC professor of the theatre and chair of the Celebration of Appalachia committee. A professional performer for nearly 40 years, Reese shared a variety of fun and humorous Appalachian folk tales.


Later in the week, activities included a showing of Matewan, a movie filmed in the coalfields of West Virginia, along with a presentation on the history of the Coal Wars in the region by local storyteller Fred Powers. Other activities included a big band concert by Equinox Little Big Band, a Blue Ridge Mountains Paint Night with artist Marianne Jackson, and a Colored Pencil Art Show and Demonstration led by artist Jennifer Phillips Carpenter.


But, the marquee event of the celebration was the Appalachian Festival, April 8, which featured local musicians Ron Mullenex, Rory Mullenex, Gavin Scott, Paul Katron, Lanny Lindamood, Landon Harris, Steve Kruger, Casey Lewis, Jim Lloyd, Reema Keen, and the Bland County High School Old-time String Band; and authors Adda Leah Davis, Linda Hudson Hoagland, Kim Headlee, Dana Smith, and Sam Varney.


The festival also featured artists, crafters, cooks, storytellers, and other vendors and talents. Liam Kelly from Blacksburg, Virginia, called dances as festival-goers traveled from vendor to vendor. Many joined in the fun as they learned to how to square dance, waltz, flatfoot and much more.


“Anytime we can come out and call dances for folks who haven’t done it before is always a treat, because it keeps the traditions alive and that’s important,” said Kelly, who is not originally from the region, but chose to stay because of the rich tradition he now loves to pass on to others. Wayne and Beverly Pelts of Bluefield, West Virginia, enjoyed the music and dancing as well as the unique finds from the vendors.


“Finding unique creations,” Wayne Pelts said was his favorite part about the festival, where he found an assembled porcupine made out of a vast array of parts. “Even though it’s not quite the Appalachian stuff of another era, this is it for this era.”


Centered on keeping the heritage of Appalachia alive, the Appalachian Festival is an event community members say they love being a part because it allows them the opportunity to help keep traditions alive and to share them with others who are willing and eager to experience them.


“I’m here to present the heritage of mining,” said storyteller Powers, who also attened the festival. “I think it’s extremely important to keep it alive. It’s a very significant part of our culture. If we don’t recognize it and respect it with an occasional festival and warm weather, it’ll get away from us.”


The Appalachian Festival concluded with a folk music concert featuring Michael Reno Harrell, an award-winning songwriter, storyteller and entertainer whose original songs and stories have been described as “Appalachian grit and wit.” As another Celebration of Appalachian Heritage and Coal Culture came to a close, participants, vendors, and organizers all seemed pleased in the success of another year of continued learning and teaching of the history and traditions of the region.


“It’s who we are,” said Reese. “Without knowing who we are, how are we going to know where we are going?”


Read about previous Celebrations of Appalachia.





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