Bluefield University in the News


by | Apr 20, 2018

Bluefield College celebrated the history, people, music, food and traditions of Appalachia and the culture and influence of coal with a series of activities in April, including a daylong Appalachian Festival, April 14.

The college’s Celebration of Appalachia started in the fall of 2011 as a series of lectures, concerts, exhibits, discussions, movies, theatre, tours, festivals, and other educational and entertaining events that were designed to honor the Appalachian heritage. The Appalachian Festival was added in the spring of 2012 to further celebrate the history, culture, people, and traditions of Appalachia with live music, arts, crafts, cuisine, literature, and discourse. Acknowledging the importance of coal to the region, the event became A Celebration of Appalachian Heritage and Coal Culture in the spring of 2017.

The marquee event, the Appalachian Festival, featured local musicians, including bagpiper Gavin Scott of the Virginia State Police Honor Guard, The Butcher Family Band, Paul Catron, Lanny Lindamood, Ron and Rory Mullennex, Steve Kruger, and the Bland County Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM Band), among others.

Nancy Evatt, an attendee all the way from South Carolina, said she came with her sister and niece who especially wanted to hear the bluegrass from the bands.

“I like the crafts. That’s why I wanted to come,” added Evatt. “We bought some stuff — jelly and soap. It’s my first time, but we’ll come next year if we’re here then.”

The festival also featured artists, crafters, woodcarvers, cooks, storytellers, authors and other vendors and talents. Libby Cook sold an assortment of makeup bags, mugs, and other personalized items. Like Evatt, she heard about the event through the newspaper.

“The live music is nice and interacting with people as they come through,” said Cook about her favorite part of the event. She added that she thought it was important for people to attend the Appalachian Festival to support “local people that are doing crafts and have hobbies that they like to do on the side — just supporting local vendors.”

Jordyn O’Saben, a student at Bluefield college who was selling different types of prints, photography, paintings, and soaps for the BC Art Club, noted that her favorite part of the event was making people happy with all the art.

“It’s the community all coming together, and it does help support all the local artists and the local vendors,” she said, “and I think it’s really cool for everyone to come together and see what everyone can do.”

The Appalachian Festival also included the announcement of the winners of the Fourth Annual Nora Lockett Memorial Appalachian Writing Contest. Samuel Kimzey won first prize with his story titled “Silent Mountains of My Nativity.” Anthony Buterakos won second place with his story “Evicted,” and Sarah Bailey won third place with her tale of “The Love of Mattie Williams.”

Other events as part of the Celebration of Appalachian Heritage and Coal Culture included a concert with The Shuffle, an Americana Band made up of local musicians who perform blends of gospel, folk, country and rock, and a presentation of The Wizard of Oz by Bluefield College Theatre and Bluefield Youth Theatre at Bluefield College. In fact, leading members of the Oz cast made a surprise appearance at the festival in costume to promote their show.

“I loved seeing the cast for Wizard of Oz frolicking around in costume,” said Breanna Buterakos, a vendor at the festival. “It made me wish I had auditioned. I’ll never forget seeing the Tin Man square dance.”

Charles Reese, chair of the Theatre Department and head of the Celebration of Appalachia planning committee, spoke about the two-fold purpose of the annual event.

“It’s important to have events like this at Bluefield College, because it strengthens our connection with the community,” said Reese. “It’s a chance for us to say, ‘come to our campus, celebrate who we are.’ I think it is important to celebrate Appalachia because it is who we are as an area. It’s our roots.”

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