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FSU Celebrates Region’s Unique Culture and Resilience With Appalachian Festival

FSU Celebrates Region’s Unique Culture and Resilience With Appalachian Festival
Playwright and legendary community organizer, songwriter and activist Si Kahn

Frostburg State University’s much-anticipated Appalachian Festival will return for its 10th year from Thursday, Sept. 17, to Saturday, Sept. 19. The free, family-friendly event brings together artists and craftspeople to celebrate all that makes the region unique – its history, culture, music, food and more – with performances, workshops, displays, discussions and activities.

This year focuses on “Appalachian Resilience,” featuring stories of the residents of Appalachia who use their ingenuity and expertise to overcome daunting challenges to create a strong sense of community and place.

Exploration of the topic will begin Thursday with the one-woman play, “Precious Memories,” at 7 p.m. at the Palace Theatre at 31 E. Main St. in Frostburg. The drama, by playwright and legendary community organizer, songwriter and activist Si Kahn, depicts the life of Sarah Ogan Gunning, an unsung hero of American folk/labor music history, and features social activist and musician Sue Massek as Gunning. There will also be a post-play discussion by Kahn, facilitated by Dr. Gregory Wood, an associate professor in the FSU Department of History.

The theme continues Friday with the FSU Appalachian Symposium, which will launch at noon with a brown bag lunch presentation on 50 years of the Appalachian Regional Commission’s work in the mountains and conclude with a presentation on “Community Organizing in Appalachia” and a performance by Kahn at 7 p.m. The symposium will provide the community with an opportunity to engage in productive and positive discussions about a regional economy in transition. The issues of energy, economy, labor, food security and sustainable agriculture will be examined. Presented in two segments, the symposium will first focus on “A Transitional Economy: Energy, Labor and Entrepreneurship in Appalachia” and then “Sustainability, Food Security and the Local Foods Movement.” Recognizing that Appalachia’s struggles are shaped by larger social and environmental issues, each segment will include two formal presentations on “big picture” issues, followed by a discussion by regional residents working in these realms and grounding these issues in the context of the region.

On Saturday, numerous presentations and performances address the topic of resilience, including Sparky and Rhonda Rucker’s presentation “African-American Voices From Spirituals to Freedom, Songs for Social Justice,” a presentation by Engage Mountain Maryland and the presence of numerous organizations working together to improve the quality of life in the region.

The Session/Jam Tent returns again this year from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the Upper Quad. Musicians of all levels will have a place to gather and play their instruments to the tune of Appalachian genres, including bluegrass, mountain music mix, Celtic and old-time.

Throughout the day, two stages will host 21 musical groups from across the region. The Garrett Highlands Pipes and Drums will perform in the center circle on the Upper Quad. Brad and Ken Kolodner, Brush Creek, the Davis and Elkins Appalachian Dance Ensemble, Allegheny Drifters, the Barnstormers and RockCandy Cloggers, Old Pitch, Bear Hill Bluegrass, and Marv Ashby and High Octane will perform on the Compton stage. On the Sowers stage, On the Run, the Davis Bradley Duo, Rachel Eddy, Time Travelers, Amy Lough Fabbri and Amanda Barger, Sparky and Rhonda Rucker, Loretta Hummel and Robert Broadwater, Twang, the Lickety Split Banjo Boys, Greg Latta, and Cory and Heather Wharton will appear. The Frostburg Arion Band will perform across from Old Main, at the top of the Upper Quad.

Focusing on songs collected by folklorist and field recording pioneer Alan Lomax, Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project will appear from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Cook Chapel for a “collaboratory” session that aims to bring to life the history, stories and traditions that underpin music so participants experience firsthand how music can build a bridge to other cultures and make inroads to their own. This workshop will open the door to the creative process and include discussion, performance and Q&A.

Those interested in stories and music should check out Storytelling from 12:45 to 1:15 p.m. in Cook Chapel. Accomplished storytellers Sparky and Rhonda Rucker, Adam Booth, Katie and Otto Ross, Rich Knoblich and Jo Ann Dadisman will enchant the audience with stories and lore inspired by their Appalachian upbringings. Then at 3:30 p.m., join Kahn, Jay Smar, and Michael and Carrie Line as they explore Songs for Social Justice – from slavery, to mining and labor struggles, to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond.

Throughout the day, attendees can check out the Explorations Tent. Topics include community organizing in Appalachia; an up-close view of the region’s wildlife; the status of Maryland’s moratorium on fracking; the history of Brownsville, a Frostburg neighborhood that was once home to a substantial African-American community but has since disappeared; Engage Mountain Maryland, which is dedicated to mindful growth of the area; and Frostburg Grows, FSU’s innovative, sustainable agriculture training center. In the Folkways Tent, they can also learn all about the banjo and how to clog, square dance and play the dulcimer.

A variety of artisans are also featured throughout the festival, offering tatting, pottery, braided rugs, jewelry, knitting, basket making, stained glass, portrait art, photography, decorative gourds, fiber arts, woodworking, hooked rugs, quilted bags, pewter, beeswax items and natural personal and home care products. Also on the grounds are the Western Maryland Chapter of the Archeological Society, the Nature Conservancy, the Allegheny Highlands Alliance, Home Ground, Engage Mountain Maryland, the Frostburg Museum and other organizations.

In addition to plenty of food and entertainment for all ages, the festival will provide activities and programming specifically for children, who can join in sing-alongs with multi-instrumentalist Ray Owen; join the Sunnyland Band and play along on spoons, jugs, washboards and all kinds of instruments from other countries; paint goat-shaped silhouettes at the Capering Kids 4-H Goat Club display and make traditional Appalachian toys at Hands-on Art.

The festival will conclude with a capstone concert featuring Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Palace Theatre. Two-time Juno-winning banjoist, composer and instigator Jayme Stone makes music inspired by sounds from around the world, bridging folk, jazz and chamber music. His award-winning albums defy and honor the banjo’s long role in the world’s music, turning historical connections into compelling music. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15.30 for FSU staff and youth under 17, and $5 for FSU students. For info about the concert or to purchase tickets, visit the Lane University Center box office or call 301-687-3137.

To learn more about the FSU Appalachian Festival, visit, look for it on Facebook or email Dr. Kara Rogers Thomas at

Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit or Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.

FSU is committed to making all of its programs, services and activities accessible to persons with disabilities. To request accommodations through the ADA Compliance Office, call 301-687-4102 or use a Voice Relay Operator at 1-800-735-2258.


For further information on this release, contact:

Office of News and Media Services
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD  21532-2303

Telephone: 301-687-3171
Fax: 301-687-7589