Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Grass is Blue at FSU's Appalachian Festival!

The grass is blue at Frostburg State University! Saturday’s 8th annual Appalachian Festival brought together performers, artisans, and nature enthusiasts to tell the story of Appalachia’s rich cultural history.  With non-stop bluegrass music all day on two separate stages, the festival emphasized the role music plays in Appalacia’s history.

The Appalachian Festival featured an Explorations tent, in which nature and ecology based clubs and organizations set up displays and gave demonstrations of plants and wildlife native to Western Maryland.  Scales to Tales, in particular, is an organization which cares for and studies animals native to the region which would not survive in the wild.  Representative Katy Barger told the story of a 20 year old owl who was rescued by Scales to Tales.  Katy says, “Even though our owl isn’t in the wild where he belongs, I’m glad that we can give him the next best thing."
                                                                        Naturalist Katy Barger and her rescued feathered friend

Also inside the Explorations tent was a display by the CRAC (Citizens Restoring American Chestnuts) project.  The American Chestnut, once referred to as the redwoods of the east coast, towered over forests from Maine to Kentucky.  These trees, however, were infected with a foreign, probably Chinese, fungus called chestnut blight, which spread through the trees and wiped out much of the population.  The CRAC project, run by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Appalachian Laboratory and the American Chestnut Foundation, seeks volunteers to plant American chestnut saplings and track the tree’s growth and progress.  An Appalachian Laboratory representative said, “You really learn to love them as you watch them grow.”  After learning about the chestnut blight epidemic, Frostburg senior Amber Haning responds, “I had no idea that chestnut trees were such a rarity in the United States!” A National Geographic online map of chestnuts planted by volunteers is available here

The interaction with nature and animals extended outside the Explorations tent at the Frostburg 4-H Goat Club’s petting zoo.  The club’s Promote the Goat campaign stressed the ways in which goats contribute to Western Maryland’s culture and economy.  With enough goats to go around split between two pens, children and adults alike were allowed inside to pet and play with both kids and full-grown goats. 

The Folkways tent was full of handmade crafts by artisans in many fields.  Local author Darrell Bowman promoted his new book The Jesus Dog while across the aisle two young jewelry makers wheeled and dealed their homemade friendship bracelets and keychains.  One table featured steampunk jewelry, including snake spine necklaces and hair pins decorated with human teeth.

While a few demonstrations shut down early and many afternoon bands cancelled their sets due to inclement weather, the Appalachian Festival did not let the weather rain on its parade.  The sounds of banjos echoing from every corner, the smell of kettle corn and hot apple cider wafting throughout the festival grounds, and the many talented artisans displaying their wares all came together to represent Appalachian culture in all its glory.  

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