The past year has certainly been momentous. It is easy to get lost in the sweep of grand events and lose sight of what has been happening in our community. But great things continue to happen within the Urban Appalachian Community, and we have a lot to celebrate as we enter 2021! Join the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition for our first-ever VIRTUAL Ringin’ In an Appalachian New Year event on Sunday, January 17 from 1-3 PM via Zoom. The event is free, but registration is required to get the link. You can register for the event here.

In years past, Ringin’ In an Appalachian New Year has been an event in which everyone could gather, share songs, stories, food, and friendship. Since I am still relatively new to all of this, I asked Russ and Barb Childers about the history of the event and what it means for the urban Appalachian community. Russ explained that Ringin’ In” is “a family reunion, not just immediate relations but the extended family of people that make up the Appalachian community.” We count everyone with an attachment to the urban Appalachian community as family and Ringin’ in the New Year is one event where all are welcome. “It is a day of community celebration of Appalachian culture,” says Russ.

Russ Childers is the musical host for “Ringin’ In.” In past years he oversaw securing bands for the event. This year, as Russ told me, “has been hell on wheels trying to get the music together.” But he prevailed. Luckily, many of our bands are family bands, which means they can stay safe in their homes and still perform for us in ours. Our virtual Ringin’ In an Appalachian New Year will include a “Main Stage” with old-time & bluegrass music by:

To have gathered this line-up for a Zoom gathering is quite an accomplishment. Music is part of the lifeblood of Appalachian culture, and nothing was going to stop these folks from performing at such an important event.

As the glue to hold the event together, two things have always figured large in the Ringin’ In an Appalachian New Year celebration: music and food. Russ Childers told me that “folks would cook their favorite Appalachian dish to bring to the gathering.” Barb Childers was quick to add that “there has always been music—singing, telling stories—music is a powerful feature of the gathering.”  Since this year’s event will be held via Zoom, sharing a dish is simply not possible. To take up this slack, there will be a recipe swap. The recipe swap will be hosted by Jeff Dey. You can share your recipes at this link. We’ll share these virtually during the program in a Zoom breakout room where we can show the recipes and tell the stories behind them. Cooking demonstrations are most welcome during this time. Eating demonstrations too!

I asked Barb and Russ about the online dimension of this year’s gathering, and Barb simply stated that “people are still hungry to get together. People just have such a strong desire to share.” Online or in person, the pull of community that is at the heart of Ringin’ In an Appalachian New Year remans unstoppable. Barb Childers, a former librarian, has always taken the lead in making sure that collecting stories is part of our community expression.  She will still lead our annual Appalachian Memories: A Word Quilt activity. You can share your story in advance here or type into the Zoom Chat during the event. Although we will be meeting via Zoom, the basic elements of community, family, music, story and food remain firmly in place.

Russ Childers is a self-taught musician. He has taken on guitar, bass, banjo, and fiddle. He told me he “started playing Appalachian music right out of college.” He has played with numerous groups over the years, including the Rabbit Hash String Band. Russ has worked with the Kentucky Arts Council and still works with the Ohio Arts Council. As a musician and musical Ambassador of sorts, Russ Childers takes Appalachian music and culture to school children and to the larger community. Barb Childers provides the spice with musical accompaniment and stories of Appalachian culture.

Russ Childers at Ringin in an Appalachian New Year 2020

Russ Childers is also an artisan. He carves and makes limber jacks. These are traditional Appalachian wooden toys that are often hand-carved with a stick in the back. The manipulator, keeping time to a lively fiddle tune, taps on a narrow flexible wooden board. The vibrating board makes the doll appear to do a clackety mountain clog dance. He also makes hippos, limber jacks and jills, ponies, chickens, opossums, elephants, flamingos, lion, zebra, giraffe, assorted dogs, pigs, and llamas. Having had a possum friend, I made sure to ask about one of Russ’s possums.

Barb Childers explained that she and Russ started playing music together, but over time, she began to sing along, filling in spaces with stories of Appalachia and Appalachian culture. Barb told me their work “began mostly for kids and now it has grown to include everyone.” From performing for children, to calling square dances, to bringing the music for Ringin’ In an Appalachian New Year, Russ and Barb Childers are at the center of preserving and furthering urban Appalachian culture.

The new online dimension to the event simply follows the spirit of the years past in which we bring together old traditions and create new traditions. Omope Carter Daboiku will, as in years past, be our emcee and share some stories from the Appalachian Memories Word Quilt activity. In addition to the Recipe Swap breakout room, this year will include an Open Mic breakout room for poets, storytellers, musicians and others, hosted by Sherry Cook Stanforth. So, in addition to hearing the great listed bands on the Main Stage, you can pop into the Open Mic breakout room and share a poem, a song, or a story, and hear others who are doing the same. I’ll likely be in the “Smoking”/Hangout breakout room with host Nancy Laird, a place to catch up with old friends and meet new one. (Smoking is NOT required!) Unfortunately, you can’t be in two places at once, but if you miss a favorite Main Stage act, we do plan to record the Main Stage and make it available on our website after the show.

So, join us for both old and new traditions on Sunday, January 17, 2021, 1-3 pm for Ringin’ In an Appalachian New Year! The Urban Appalachian Community Coalition is ready to welcome everyone. Hope to see y’all. Let’s greet the New Year as we always have with community, family, and friends.

New to Zoom? Not a problem! Check out these helpful links and tips:

  • Learn how to join a meeting HERE
  • Update/upgrade your Zoom App in order to fully participate HERE
  • Learn how “breakout rooms” work HERE
  • Learn how to use the Chat feature HERE
  • Get Zoom on your phone HERE

Again, you can register for Ringin’ In an Appalachian New Year at this link:

Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. Check out his profile in UACC’s new Cultural Directory. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.

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