By Mike Templeton

On Mother’s Day Weekend, May 11 and 12, the 53rd Annual Appalachian Festival will be held at Old Coney. The event runs from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm on Saturday, and 10:00 am to 6:00 pm on Sunday. Once again, the Appalachian Community Development Association has a packed festival with traditional Appalachian arts and crafts, cultural demonstrations, food and of course music, this year with expanded Saturday hours for even more! The Annual Appalachian Festival is the premiere event for Appalachian life and culture, and it never disappoints.

And, as always, the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition will be present to represent the urban Appalachian dimensions of Appalachian life and culture. As in the past, our popular Perceptions of Home Exhibit will be near our booth, featuring the stories and photographs of first, second and third generation migrants from our Appalachian region. This year, thanks to our robust Kith and Kin: Appalachians and the Making of Cincinnati partnership with the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, A Picture’s Worth, and Talkington Media, we will have a QR Code which allows folks to view the full exhibit brochure while at the Festival—and later, too! (Look for more information about the digitization of the Perceptions of Home Exhibit in a future blog post!)

Core UACC member Nancy Laird will be manning the UACC booth as she has for 25 years. Nancy will help you pinpoint where you are located in the big map of urban Appalachian migration. Nancy explains: “I love meeting all the folks that come to the booth and put their dots on where they are from and just come and chat. We keep bottles of water to share for them as it can get hot and dehydrating. But folks who are not in the region want to put a dot as close as possible to their birthplace, but their hearts may still be in the mountains.”

Nancy Laird at the UACC table at the 52nd Appalachian Festival

The Kith and Kin project is designed to create spaces for friends—old and new—to share stories and help shape Urban Appalachian history. The UACC booth will have trained story gatherers on hand both Saturday and Sunday from 2pm-5pm to engage with any festival attendee who would like to share a story about what family means to them. As an extension of UACC’s ongoing story project work, these “family” stories will be connected to a photo or object selected by the person who wants to share as a way to focus the conversation and dig deeper into the myriad ways that “family” shows up in our lives and communities.  So, bring a photo or object along if you can—but if you can’t, be assured we want your story.

As UACC Core Member and APW Executive and Creative Director Elissa Yancey says, “Being able to connect with community members and collect their stories in an organized and sustainable way feels like an extension of what we’ve always done as an organization: build relationships and understanding through story.”

Music occupies such a central place for Appalachian life and culture, and it becomes a central feature of the Appalachian Festival. The line-up includes some of the finest in traditional Appalachian and Old-Time music, and the Main Stage will feature folks like Danny Burton & The Thunderbirds and Randy Barger & Friends. The stages will also feature some of our own local favorites like the Rabbit Hash String Band and Sherry Stanforth & Tangled Roots.

Core member Sherry Cook Stanforth explains that the Appalachian Festival has been an integral part of her life, and to play music with her band at the festival is rather like settling in with family. “I grew up in the Appalachian Festival, playing music with my family and seeing dear friends. This gathering holds intergenerational memory-making and creative expression that truly reflects the diverse cultural texture of the Appalachian region. When I’m there along the river on festival days, playing a tune or connecting in true community spirit, I feel the best kind of joy” With the music as a main feature of the event, you can expect plenty of informal get togethers for jam sessions in an around the Festival throughout the weekend.

Another mainstay of the Appalachian Festival is food. In order to sustain yourself for music and for dancing, you are going to need to eat, and the Annual Appalachian Festival has that in abundance. The Festival can get your day started with biscuits and gravy or a simple country ham sandwich on a biscuit. There will be traditional food tasting booths for people who are just curious. Maple kettle corn has long been a favorite at the Festival, and guess what? There will be a booth for traditional Italian Ices because these things are just good!

What the Annual Appalachian Festival is truly about is Appalachian culture, and we mean this in the broadest sense of the term. The Appalachian region is enormous, it consists of all kinds of people, and there is simply no way to put all of Appalachian culture into one simple package. The Appalachian Festival includes cultural heritage demonstrations by traditional mountain artisans, demonstrations and performances by Indigenous people, and it also includes information on the urban Appalachian experience and the migration that created this phenomenon. The Appalachian Festival is historical for sure, but it emphasizes the living breathing world of Appalachia then and now, and UACC is proud to be part of how that happens.

The 53rd Annual Appalachian Festival will be on May 11-12, Mother’s Day weekend, at Old Coney. The event is rain or shine. Parking is free, and tickets are available at the gate. The Appalachian Festival is brought to us by the Appalachian Community Development Association and their community partners, which include the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition. This event is one of the main annual events in Greater Cincinnati, and it is not to be missed. Whether you are Appalachian or not, the Festival provides something anyone can enjoy. More information on the 53rd Annual Appalachian Festival can be found at this link:

Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. He is the author of The Chief of Birds: A Memoir, available from Erratum Press, and Impossible to Believe, forthcoming from Iff Books. Check out his profile in UACC’s Cultural Directory. He lives in West Milton, Ohio with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city and the country snapping photos. She looks up at the grandeur above, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.

One thought on “The 53rd Annual Appalachian Festival

  1. Will there be any more kith-n-kin trainings/meetings?
    I was unable to attend and want to be involved.
    Are there any opportunities at the festival?

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