FSU Celebrates Region’s Unique Culture, History, Music and Dance With Appalachian Festival

Aug 29, 2019 10:25 AM

Frostburg State University’s much-anticipated Appalachian Festival will return for its 14th year from Thursday, Sept. 19, to Saturday, Sept. 21. 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 “Just Transitions: Climate, Economy and Culture.”

The capstone of the festival is the concert featuring Dom Flemons on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the historic Palace Theatre at 31 E. Main St. in Frostburg. Flemons was the co-founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops who won a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album in 2010. After leaving the group to pursue a solo career, Flemons released an album in 2018, titled “Dom Flemons Presents Black Cowboys,” and received a Grammy nomination for Best Folk Album. He was also nominated for two Emmys at the 2018 National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Mid-America Awards for the PBS Episode, “Songcraft Presents Dom Flemons,” and for the co-written song “Good Ole Days” with Ben Arthur. He was the first artist-in-residence at the Making American Music Internship Program at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Known as “The American Songster” because his repertoire of music covers more than 100 years of American folklore, ballads and tunes, Flemons is also a music scholar, historian and multi-instrumentalist. Tickets for the event are $15 for adults and can be purchased at the door.

The festival kicks off with a film festival on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Palace Theatre. The first film, “We Are Bluegrass,” demonstrates local efforts to continue Appalachian heritage through bluegrass music. The second, “Hillbilly,” confronts depictions of Appalachian and other rural people on a broad, national level and introduces audiences to a nuanced, authentic Appalachia that is quite conscious of how it has been portrayed and the impacts of those portrayals.

The theme of just transitions continues Friday on FSU’s Upper Quad with the Appalachian Symposium, beginning at 1 p.m. with “What's New in Appalachian Extraction? Appalachian Plastics” by Tyler Cannon, a community organizer with Mountain Watershed Association, who will explore the Appalachian Storage Hub and related petrochemical infrastructure in the region. The proposed developments include ethane crackers, miles of pipelines and underground storage facilities that would create a plastics-processing network stretching from Catlettsburg, Ky., along the Ohio River, to Beaver, Pa. Cannon will focus on the most recent developments with these projects, the connection between shale gas and plastics, and how audience members can get involved in the fight for the future of the region.

Following this presentation at 2 p.m. Jacob Hannah, Coalfield Development’s first conservation coordinator, will present “Rebuilding the Appalachian Economy From the Ground Up With Triple-Bottom-Line Sustainability.” Hannah focuses on creating innovative ways to protect West Virginia and incorporate it into the future. Testing out his triple-bottom-line sustainability concepts, he spent three years developing revitalization initiatives for coal towns in central Pennsylvania and food security programs in Western Maryland.

At 3 p.m., join Clory Jackson and Caroline Hann, who have embarked on a creative journey to explore and confront the history and social impact of Brownsville, a forgotten community of Frostburg that started in the 1860s. Their interactive theatre experience, “The Brownsville Project,” seeks to explore the story of a place where race, class, gender and family pride meet.

In the last presentation of the day, “The Living New Deal,” at 4 p.m., independent historian Brent McKee, with the feasibility of the Green New Deal resolution in mind, will discuss and present photographs about the “green” aspects of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, 1933-1943, both nationally and locally. This will include Works Progress Administration climate science projects, sanitation projects funded by the Public Works Administration, tree planting by the Civilian Conservation Corps and legislation and art designed to promote the conservation of wildlife.

The symposium ends at 6 p.m. with a community sing for climate and social justice led by singer-songwriters Kim Alexander, Doug Hendren, Sparky and Rhonda Rucker, and Rob Smith.

Also on Saturday, two stages will host a variety of musical groups from across the region. Blue Hill Bluegrass, T-Mart Rounders, Hickory Bottom Band, Davis & Elkins College Appalachian Ensemble, Buffalo Run, Allegheny Drifters, Black Diamond, Andy Cohen, Highland Grass, Flower Hill String Band, Critton Hollow String Band, the Barnstormers and the RockCandy Cloggers will perform on the Compton stage. On the Thomas Subaru Hyundai stage, Sparky and Rhonda Rucker, Hay Fever with Pete Hobbie, the Time Travelers, Michael and Carrie Kline, Davis Bradley Duo, Loretta Hummel and Paul Dix, Day Old News, Jeff and Myles Thomas and Tabby Finch, Jay Smar, Casselman Valley Travelers and Twang! will appear. In addition, the Garrett Highlands Pipes and Drums and Frostburg Arion Band will perform on the grounds.

Chapel Happenings, beginning at 11 a.m. in Cook Chapel, will include personal stories of hope and resilience. Community members are invited to join this story-sharing session to hear local community members narrate how they were inspired to keep going despite economic, health, social or spiritual challenges. Appearing in the chapel from 12:30 to 3 p.m. will be accomplished storytellers Jo Ann Dadisman, Adam Booth, Katie and Otto Ross, Ilene Evans and Mikalena Zuckett, who will enchant the audience with stories and lore inspired by their Appalachian upbringings. Afterward, festival attendees can learn the fundamentals of songwriting from professional songwriter Robert Smith.

Throughout the day, attendees can visit the Explorations Tent. Come learn about Frostburg’s historic African American community, Brownsville, from author Lynn Bowman; the interracial documentary project, Hope, which consists of more than 40 life story interviews from sons and daughters of coal miners; the plight of the honey bee as presented by 14-year-old Finian Stroup, who began a fundraising campaign to raise money for honey bee research; and addressing climate change in Appalachia. Also featured are an open discussion of the collection “Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to ‘Hillbilly Elegy,’” which addresses J.D. Vance’s book that explores a more complex view of Appalachia, and artist and author Regina Holliday, who has advocated for transparency in medical records and began “The Walking Gallery” movement.

In the Folkways Tent, festivalgoers can participate in several Appalachian dance and dance-calling workshops, as well as learn about the Maryland Folklife Network, the African American ballad tradition and the traditional medicinal plants of Appalachia.

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 singalongs with multi-instrumentalist Ray Owen; join the Sunnyland Band and play along on spoons, jugs, washboards and all kinds of instruments from other countries; try out instruments at the Cat and the Fiddle musical instrument petting zoo; explore Appalachian arts through hands-on activities; paint goat-shaped silhouettes at the Capering Kids 4-H Goat Club display; make “weaving” crafts; and meet the members of Cub Scout Pack 24.

A variety of artisans are also featured throughout the festival, offering tatting, pottery, ceramic wares, industrial-style sculptural pieces and accessories, quilting, watercolors, jewelry, knitting, basket making, decorative gourds, fiber arts, cigar box banjos, stained and fused glass, woven pot holders and slate paintings. Also on the grounds are Dragonfly and Company (natural soaps and body products), Finian Stroup (honey-bee-themed bath bombs and chocolate pretzels), Heishman HoneyB Hut (honey and beeswax products), the Nettle Patch (organic products), the Western Maryland Chapter of the Archeological Society, Friends of Ashby’s Fort, Wynter’s Haven (natural personal and home care products), Garrett County Celtic Festival, Frostburg Museum Association, Allegany County Women’s Action Coalition, Allegany and Garrett County Bird Club, NAACP – Allegany Chapter, FrostburgFirst, Wholesome Harvest Co-op (grocery store), Nemacolin Chapter of Trout Unlimited No. 199, Appalachian Laboratory, Green New Deal, Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, Allegany County Truth and Reconciliation Committee (to recognize the victims of lynching), Garrett County Road Workers Strike of 1970, Mountain Watershed Association, American Red Cross, Allegany Allied Arts Inc., Dickerson African Methodist Episcopal Church, International Geographical Honor Society – Gamma Theta Upsilon, Phi Mu Delta, Delta Sigma Pi and Residence Hall Association.

The Multimedia Learning Center will offer planetarium shows from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

To learn more about the FSU Appalachian Festival, visit www.frostburg.edu/events/afestival or email Dr. Kara Rogers Thomas at krogersthomas@frostburg.edu.

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 www.frostburg.edu or facebook.com/frostburgstateuniversity. 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.