By Mike Templeton

The 52nd  Annual Appalachian Festival will be held on May 13 and 14 at Coney Island. As in previous years, the festival coincides with Mother’s Day. The Appalachian Community Development Association is again pleased to offer a full schedule of music, arts, crafts, demonstrations of traditional Appalachian folk artisans, and Appalachian storytellers. This event is packed with things to see and do, and to sustain you through the weekend there will of course be plenty of food, Appalachian and otherwise. There will be a prominent showing by the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition as core members and others occupy various places from music to poetry to storytelling, and of course simply enjoying the weekend.

Music is often the center of attention at the Appalachian Festival. This year will feature performances by extremely popular acts like Mike Oberst & the Tillers, Danny Paisley and Southern Grass, and Ma Crow, just to name a few. The complete list is on the Appalachian Festival website provided below. Since music is so central to Appalachian culture, you will just as likely catch a few people picking banjos and guitars and fiddling off stage in various places. Bluegrass and old-time musicians live to strike up the music and will play in parking lots as easily as stages. 

As we know, Appalachian culture consists of much more than mountain music. The Indigenous cultural history of the Appalachian region is strongly represented at the Appalachian festival by All Nations Drum, who will offer demonstrations of beadwork, Native American hand drumming, basket making, and rope making.

Core members of UACC will also be present providing an exhibit called “Perceptions of Home.” Core member Maureen Sullivan explained that this exhibit was originally “envisioned by the Urban Appalachian Council in the mid-90’s as a way to help tell the story of migration through the lives of a few (about 24) of the folks – representative of hundreds of thousands more – who came to this and many other urban areas in search of work and a way to raise their families.” The Appalachian migration is of course the heart of what we now call the urban Appalachian experience. The exhibit contains images by the Appalachian photographer Malcolm Wilson with text by Don Corathers who interviewed 24 people about their migration experiences. The exhibit is also made possible with contributions by Core member Pauletta Hansel, Debbie Bays, and Larry Redden. As Maureen Sullivan explained: “The panels show men and women, black and white, artists and factory workers, dreamers, activists and others.  The diversity in itself, while it cannot portray all the variety of strength and background and hope or success eventually achieved, is like the tip of the iceberg.  So much lies underneath each image.” The Appalachian Festival is a place to learn while being entertained.

The Perceptions of Home exhibit will be located near UACC’s booth at the west side of the park. Stop by to visit and find out about opportunities to become involved with UACC, including in a new project to plan our future. 2024 will mark the tenth anniversary of the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition. We have an open call for volunteers to join our focused efforts to shape and strengthen our essential program areas. Program teams will meet during the late spring and summer to define their work and needed resources. All team members will be invited to a UACC Gathering in late summer/early fall to share our first “next steps” and celebrate our good work. Stop by the booth or email Maureen Sullivan at [email protected] to find out more.

Core member Sherry Cook Stanforth will also be at the Appalachian Festival with “Place Keepers Wide Open Mic.” This is a project Sherry has been developing with young artists in their teens and twenties who share original music, creative writing, and visual art. These young artists work with community-teaching artists across genres and forms to develop and showcase the “dynamic power of place keeping in our region’s natural, community, and imagined homeplaces.”

The 52nd Annual Appalachian Festival will feature food and lots of it. In and around the Mountain Village you will be able to sample biscuits and gravy, sandwiches made with Blue Ridge Bangers (Smoked Sausage with Peppers & Onions), and Maple Kettle Corn. These are just a few of the many options that will be available through the weekend. Along with food, the moonshine demonstration will be back this year, although I do not know how much of this will be available for sampling. Perhaps humming George Jones’s “White Lightning” during the demo will suffice.

There is more on hand than we could possibly cover at the 52nd Annual Appalachian Festival. After a smaller re-start last year following the pandemic, the festival is back in full swing with all that folks have come to expect and an ever-growing list of new music, art, food, and cultural exhibits. The Appalachian Community Development Association has once again brought together some of the finest representatives of Appalachian culture. With so many of us with Appalachian heritage, the Appalachian Festival has become a signature event in Greater Cincinnati, one that makes it possible for everyone to get a taste of the best of mountain life, culture, music, and food.

The 52nd Annual Appalachian Festival will be held at Coney Island on Mother’s Day Weekend, Saturday, May 13 from 10:00 am- 9:00 pm, and Sunday May 14 from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm. The event happens rain or shine. Full information on the Appalachian Festival can be found at this link:

Cover photo sourced from:

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.

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