by Mike Templeton
On Sunday January 15 from noon until 6:00 pm, the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition will be hosting our annual Ringin’ in the Appalachian New Year. This year feels particularly special since it is the first in-person celebration since 2020. After holding Ringin’ via Zoom in 2021 due to safety precautions for Covid-19, we are finally able to get together in person to share food, music, dancing, and community. We will be gathering at Holy Family Church at 3006 West 8th Street in East Price Hill. The event will include a potluck, plenty of music and the annual pie contest. Feel free to bring a covered dish and a pie for the contest.
Ringin’ in the Appalachian New Year began in 2000 when a few members of the Urban Appalachian Council decided to hold a holiday get-together for the urban Appalachian community, but one that would not add to the fuss and rush of the holidays. I spoke to Melissa English who was the Cultural Coordinator for UAC in 2002, and she remembered some of the early incarnations of Ringin’ in the Appalachian New Year. English remembers the event coming about “simply because people wanted to have a celebration of the urban Appalachian community. We wanted to do something that coincided with the holidays, and the late New Year’s celebration made sense.” The first gatherings involved just a few people bringing hot dishes to what is now the UACC library. It grew quickly.
Russ Childers added that the earliest incarnations of Ringin’ in the Appalachian New Year involved an invitation to the Lower Price Hill community. Childers said it was only natural to feature a potluck, and as he said, “at a gathering like this, food is in keeping with mountain life, and music has always been an important element of these kinds of celebrations.” Childers further emphasized that “Ringin’ in the Appalachian New Year is just a community party in the spirit of Appalachian rural life.” Russ Childers and Melissa English both highlighted the importance of music to this event.
Just as in years past, there is a full list of bands performing at this year’s event. Melissa English will be performing with her band, Greenwillow, who offer a mix of gospel and old-time music. Rush Childers has been playing old-time music since the 1970s, and will play alongside the Rabbit Hash String Band,. The roster also includes Carter Bridge, which includes longtime UACC stewards Michael Henson and Elissa Pogue; Tangled Roots, one of Core Member Sherry Cook Stanforth’s many artistic undertakings; and long-time UACC friends Don and Esther Drewry. Dancing is always encouraged, and you need not worry about your dancing skills. This is not a competition. It is a time to relax, enjoy some music, and move your feet if you are so inclined. As Core Member Jeff Dey explained, “the dancing is more about participation that performance.”
Of course, the center of all of this is food. People are encouraged to bring a dish, and there has never been a shortage of delicious things to eat at Ringin’ in the Appalachian New Year. Jeff Dey’s reputation precedes him on this account. Folks who know, anxiously anticipate what he and Mike Maloney will bring, I asked Jeff what he had in store: “I usually bring a pot of beans and some corn bread. I will probably bake a pie, but I have not decided what I am going to make yet,” he told me. Jeff Dey has won the pie contest in years past, but he wanted to emphasize that this is an informal contest. This is not a cut-throat television baking show. I think I speak for most everyone when I say we all just want some pie. Jeff Dey also said that the pie contest has, in years past, split into two categories, one for the best traditional pie and another for the best innovative pie.
Jeff Dey wanted to also make clear what others have said and that “the focus is on things that have to do with our Appalachian culture, and this mostly means being neighborly and gathering as a community.” To this end, Barb Childers (also a member of Rabbit Hash) has been doing the Story Quilt for many years. This involves writing down a series of quotations, accolades, and thoughts with a focus on urban Appalachian life and culture. This will be shared as one of the many ways we will be bringing people together to celebrate the new year and reflect on the year that has gone by.
One thing we know we have to celebrate is the fact that we can all finally get together in person again. It has been a rough couple of years for everyone, and for some it has been devastating. That we can gather in one place, share some food, listen to music and dance is something we can all agree is worth celebrating. Ringin’ in the Appalachian New Year is a community gathering focused on our urban Appalachian heritage and culture. Everyone is welcome, Appalachian or otherwise. Bring a dish, bring a pie, or just bring yourself for an afternoon of community celebration. Ringin’ in the Appalachian New Year will run from 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm on January 15 at Holy Family Church at 3006 West 8th Street in East Price Hill.
PS. When it rains urban Appalachian culture, it pours! Feel free to scoot across town to Tome Books, 2123 Beechmont in Mt. Washington after Ringin’ in the Appalachian New Year to hear Core Members Sherry Cook Stanforth and Pauletta Hansel read their poetry, and share your own at the Open Mic. Doors open at 6 pm, but the reading won’t start till Sherry and Pauletta finish their pie!
Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. He is the author of the forthcoming The Chief of Birds: A Memoir. Available later this year from Erratum Press, and Impossible to Believe, forthcoming from Iskra Books. 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.