40th Annual Blue Ridge Folklife Festival Set for October 26

Steve Foster jumps his mule. Thousands attended the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival at Ferrum College on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (photo by Pat Jarrett)
Steve Foster jumps his mule. Thousands attended the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival at Ferrum College on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (photo by Pat Jarrett)

Highlights include traditional crafts and music, country foods, mule jumping, antique cars and more, plus new music workshops paying homage to old style tunes.

Ferrum Colleege continues its 40-year tradition of celebrating the region’s music and craft heritage with its annual Blue Ridge Folklife Festival, set for October 26 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  This year’s event promises to outshine other festivals across the country with the addition of two new music workshops, 23 music acts, three music stages, and variety of activities and crafts to suit young and old alike.

“This year’s Folklife Festival presents the most robust music offering we’ve had in 40 years,” said Roddy Moore, Institute Director. “Each year we continue to grow and identify new ways to celebrate the rich history and folk culture of the beautiful Blue Ridge region, and this year is no different.  This is, by far, the most authentic celebration of folk heritage anywhere in the country.”

The 2013 Folklife Festival, a Crooked Road Music Trail “Major Venue” adds two new interactive workshops that pay homage to unique rural music styles: whistling and old style piano playing.

AIN’T JUST WHISTLIN’ DIXIE:  A Rural Whistling Workshop
This interactive workshop pays homage to the long-standing regional tradition of whistling. Participants will be taken back in time to the 1920’s and 1930’s when whistling was considered an art form, and the human mouth its own musical instrument.  Across the globe, whistling has had a number of different uses over the years, from whistling while you work to alerting soldiers in combat to calling the kids in for dinner.  In the early half of the 20th century, whistling was an integral part of folk musical performances and the fiddle tune tradition but is not as apparent in modern accompaniment.  This workshop will feature two folk groups, which still incorporate whistling today, and interview performers about how they learn songs and incorporate this technique into their music.

DON’T SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER:  A Piano Traditions Workshop II
This workshop revisits the tradition and cultural impact of the piano in regional folk performances.  Dance halls in the early half of the 20th century were filled with the music of grand pianos, and music groups rarely performed without piano accompaniment.  But, when we think about the tradition of folk music, rarely do we think about pianos even though they were commonly in homes and performance halls throughout the Blue Ridge region.  In traditional regional folk music, pianos helped keep tempo, playing as both rhythm and tune – in recordings, the piano isn’t always apparent, but one would notice if its missing.  This workshop will focus on the piano styles of the Blue Ridge and the beauty of live piano performances in folk music.

In addition to the new workshops, the festival has expanded to include three music stages and plans to feature 23 music acts, from Vintage Appalachian to African American Gospel.  Festival favorites including the Bower Family old fashioned hard tack candy, moonshine story telling, and the annual Coon Dog Water contest also return as well as five additional horse and dog events, antique tractor and engine activities and more than 50 crafts and children’s games.

As Ferrum College celebrates its centennial year, the call is also being made for alumni and non-alumni alike to share their stories with a video testimonial, which can be created at the festival.  For those who have been coming to the festival for 40 years, to those who met their spouse at the college, the opportunity to share stories is welcome to all.  A testimonial booth will be set up and videos will be preserved in the Blue Ridge Institute archives, perhaps for the next 100 years and beyond.

Festival tickets are sold at the gates on the day of the event. Advance tickets can be ordered now by calling 540-365-4412 or mailing checks to Blue Ridge Folklife Festival, P.O. Box 1000, Ferrum, VA 24088.  Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children (ages 6-15) and senior citizens (ages 60 and up).  Gates open at 10 a.m. and activities run through 5 p.m. Parking is free, and directions are simple.  Follow the Crooked Road (Route 40 west) 10 miles from Rocky Mount to Ferrum College.

For more information visit www.blueridgefolklifefestival.org.