The Urban Appalachian Community Coalition places central importance on representations of who we were and are. There are not many opportunities to get a more complete picture of these representations than the Annual Appalachian Festival at Coney Island, sponsored by Appalachian Community Development Association. Though absent for two years due to the pandemic, Annual Appalachian Festival marks its 51st year on Mother’s Day weekend, May 7th and 8th, and this is an event you do not want to miss.
The 51st annual Appalachian Festival marks its return following a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the return of the Appalachian Festival proves to be a stunning event. This year’s Appalachian Festival will bring back the features and attractions that have always made this one of the most important Appalachian cultural events in the region. However, after the two-year break, this year will offer an event that will have more in common with the roots of the festival than years past. Festival organizers are still looking for volunteers for the event. Anyone willing to sign up will get free admission for the festival. Volunteer Coordinator Mark Trammell writes, “Does anyone ever have enough help? We can definitely use as much help as you can get us. Instead of volunteers filling out an application, give them my email address, [email protected], and have them send me their name, address, phone and/or cell number, and times they would be available. And t-shirt size!”
We will see the return of Appalachian music, arts, dance, and culture we have grown to expect, but this year will be a little smaller than recent years. The festival will be scaled back just a little due to the long-term impact of the pandemic, but this has allowed festival organizers to focus on quality more than quantity. Shanon Rice, President of the Board of the Appalachian Community Development Association, explained that “we are returning to the roots of the Appalachian Festival by presenting a smaller more intimate gathering.” The smaller event allows organizers to focus on the best of Appalachian culture.
Shanon Rice said that the pandemic hit many of the vendors pretty hard. “Sadly, some of the small businesses will not be coming back,” she said, “and some simply could not make it because the event is down to two days instead of three which means it was just not feasible for them to return this year, and it has been heartbreaking that some long-time vendors cannot make it.” We can expect upwards of 50 vendors this year, displaying a variety of handmade items reflecting the Appalachian culture, including Parsley Pottery, which we have featured in a previous article.
The Appalachian Festival is bringing us some new features as well. This year will include an Appalachian moonshine distiller. Yes, someone will show us how to make mountain moonshine, although no actual moonshine will be produced. This demonstration is not just for the novelty of producing moonshine. The production of corn liquor was an essential aspect of the early Appalachian economy, and it offered an efficient way of converting corn into a valuable commodity.
The Appalachian Festival would not be complete without music. Shanon Rice told me that this year they are able to feature some national music artists. “The headliners for Saturday night will be the Po’ Ramblin’ Boys and Joe Mullins,” Rice said. Some might remember that Joe Mullins made a significant contribution to the Industrial Strength Bluegrass project with his recording. The stage will also be occupied by numerous local and regional musicians, including the Red Idle Rejects, who have been featured in previous post, the Rabbit Hash String Band, Ma Crow and local headliners, The Tillers as the last act on Sunday afternoon. The complete schedule is here: http://www.appalachianfestival.org/music
Other Appalachian Festival staples include Appalachian storytellers. Omope Carter Daboiku is excited to see the festival make a come-back. As Omope told me, “I am just happy to be alive and be able to go back to the Appalachian Festival.” She continued: “Shanon has spared me of being in charge of anything this year, and I am simply happy to be back at the story-telling pavilion.” Omope Carter Daboiku will join a longlist of other Appalachian storytellers since this tradition so integral to Appalachian culture.
Also at the Storytelling Tent, on Saturday, May 7, at 5 pm, Core Member Pauletta Hansel has gathered at group of poets to read from the anthology, “I Thought I Heard the Cardinal Sing”: Ohio’s Appalachian Voices, the collection of Appalachian Ohio poetry that was released by Ohio Poet Laureate Kari-Gunter Seymour earlier this year. Readers include Nancy Susanna Breen, Richard Hague, Pauletta Hansel, Kevin LeMaster, Barbara Rohrer, and Roberta Schultz. It has been a banner year for Appalachian poets and writers, and the Appalachian Festival will the place to catch up.
Other features include All Nations Drum who represent the central place of indigenous people in the Appalachian region. Parson John and Maggie will offer a mountain church service on Sunday morning for campers and anyone else who chooses to attend. And, of course, there will be food. We cannot imagine the Appalachian Festival without food. There will be an all-you-can-eat Mother’s Day brunch on Sunday morning (info available on the Festival website soon.). Of note for those of us with a sweet tooth, Sweet Maple Products will offer maple popcorn, and Chocolate Moonshine Co. will have their famous fudge made by hand-stirring in a copper kettle.
It is beyond the scope of this article to name all the performers, artists, and vendors who will make up the 51st Annual Appalachian Festival on May 7th and 8th at Coney Island. Though scaled back from previous years, the Appalachian Festival will still present the key features that have made this event one of the most important in the region. The Appalachian Community Development Association has worked tirelessly to bring this special event back from its two-year hiatus during the pandemic. As in years past, the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition is proud to be one of the community partners for the Appalachian Festival.
For more information about the Appalachian Festival, follow this link: http://www.appalachianfestival.org/.
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.