Category: Culture

Culture

Heritage Tune Competition: The Story Behind ‘Shady Grove’

Heritage Tune Competition: The Story Behind ‘Shady Grove’

In 2012, I participated in the Heritage Tune competition at the Union Grove Old Time Fiddler’s Convention. The competition is open to musicians of any age who have competed in one of the festival’s twelve instrumental competitions. I competed in the Mountain Dulcimer category, so I was eligible for the Heritage Tune competition. One prize was awarded, consisting of cash […]

Cripple Creek: The Song and The Legacy

Cripple Creek: The Song and The Legacy

Go to any Old Time jam session in the area surrounding Galax, VA (“The World Capital of Old Time Music”), and the tune “Cripple Creek” will be played before night’s end. This melody has echoed through the hills and hollers of Appalachia for generations, becoming a staple in bluegrass and old-time music. Its lively tune and catchy lyrics capture the […]

Tobacco Bag Stringing: Craft, Culture, and Survival

Tobacco Bag Stringing: Craft, Culture, and Survival

Amid the harsh economic strains of the Great Depression, the unassuming craft of tobacco bag stringing emerged as a lifeline for many Blue Ridge families. This craft involved the simple—but tedious—task of threading drawstrings into tobacco bags. These bags held more than tobacco; they promised survival and a speck of prosperity for those who stitched their way through hard times. […]

Stompin’ 76: The Woodstock of Bluegrass

Stompin’ 76: The Woodstock of Bluegrass

Stompin’ 76 was a landmark festival that, for one long weekend in 1976, made Bluegrass the center of the musical universe. Like New York’s iconic Woodstock festival in 1969, the event is legendary. Over 100,000 attended the event. Most attendees parked miles away—some on Interstate 77, more than eleven miles away—and walked up country roads to the festival near Galax, […]

Damascus, VA: Trail Town, USA

Damascus, VA: Trail Town, USA

In ancient times, it was said that “all roads led to Rome.” Today, the same might be said of Damascus, VA. Damascus is the Blue Ridge Mountain town where seven recreational trails converge: the Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creeper Trail, the Trans-America National Bicycle Trail, the Iron Mountain Trail, the Daniel Boone Heritage Trail, the Crooked Road Musical Heritage Trail, […]

Mabry Mill: A Blue Ridge Parkway Delight

Mabry Mill: A Blue Ridge Parkway Delight

The moonshine still’s cook pot sits down the hill by the creek, mounted atop a stone furnace. The copper tubing leading to the cooling barrel is green with verdigris. The wooden chute that carried water to cool the steaming moonshine is green with moss, but the mash barrels look almost new. The U.S. government once went to great lengths to […]

Flatfoot Dancing: Too Much Fun?

Flatfoot Dancing: Too Much Fun?

Bluegrass music and flatfoot dancing go together like bread and butter. Go to any event with live bluegrass music, and someone will set up a dancing platform or throw a piece of plywood on the ground and start flatfooting. Flatfooting, also known as clogging, foot-stomping, or buck-dancing, consists of dancing alone or in groups to up-tempo music, using enthusiastic footwork […]

Outhouse On The Run

Outhouse On The Run

Porta-Potty, Johnny-on-the-Spot, Outhouse, Portable toilet. Whatever you call them, they all have one thing in common: they stay put once you set them up. They don’t go anywhere. Unless you are in Independence, VA, on the second Sunday in October, when you will see outhouses running down the main street. The running outhouses are part of the Grand Privy Race […]

King Kudzu

King Kudzu

King Kudzu is on the move. A Kudzu vine can grow a foot a day, sixty feet a season. Residents of Georgia have been warned to close their windows at night to keep the dastardly weed out of their houses. Left uncontrolled, it will grow over any fixed object, including cars, houses, equipment, and your lazy brother-in-law. The Japanese introduced […]

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