Special to the Daily News
In the hills of Appalachia, winding mountain roads lead to a proud people rich in heritage and culture. Weathered boards of a wraparound porch resonate with the sounds of the strumming of the guitar, plucking of the banjo, scratching of the washboard and tapping of the feet as family and friends gather together.
Colorful, vibrant quilts flapping on the clothesline mirror the women who lovingly make them. The lush greens of neatly tended gardens speak of days yet to come when tomatoes will be canned, beans dried and shucked, herbs hung from the ceiling and corn kernels plucked from ears to be used in cornpones and mash. A pile of neatly stacked wood brings warmth when needed, but when carved into “Dapper Dan” and “Walkin’ Mules,” also joy and amazement to children.
But come Sept. 21 - 23, a winding road will not be needed to discover such treasures. Rather, travelers can drive the straight and modern four-lane Hwy 25 to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park where daily chores and skills will be showcased in one venue:”Homespun Appalachia.”
Park Ranger Pam Eddy, who has been instrumental in helping to orchestrate the event, explains the event’s offerings as ones which will “rekindle the flame of true homespun Appalachia.”
“We’ve selected a wonderful array of craftsmen and artists who will demonstrate the skills,trades and even food that shaped mountain life of yesterday and today,” said Eddy.
Local crafters will include Joey Beason, a modern day “Geppetto” making his rendition of “Pinocchio.” Ranger Eddy explains that recently, when Joey was presenting his Appalachian toys at one of the park’s campfire programs, an awed adult visitor who could no longer restrain herself literally jumped up and exclaimed, “You make all this by hand!”
Manager Lynn Stanley, of Cumberland Crafts, which too is involved in choreographing the event, is ecstatic about the guild’s participation.
“There can be no better way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Cumberland Crafts,” said Stanley. “We’ve chosen some remarkable artists whose demonstrations will reveal how many daily household chores and necessities have metamorphosed into fabulous art forms.”
Lynn Oglesby, who devotes her time to fiber arts, will wow visitors. Oglesby reminisces, “Sitting at my grandmother’s treadle sewing machine, making doll clothes, is one of my earliest and fondest memories. Since those young years, I have grown into an experienced fiber artist.”
When listening to Rick Long play his hand made bowed psalteries, one will think they are surrounded by a choir of angels. Rick credits his parents for his love of this beautiful instrument.
“At my father’s side, I became familiar with walnut, cherry, cedar and other woods native to North America.I gained great love and respect for the use of these materials..My love for music came from my mother; she is very talented and can play the piano really great by ear.”
For Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) intern Deidre Donahue, who will graduate in May 2013 with a master’s degree in business, helping co-plan “Homespun Appalachia” has been a dream come true.
Donahue shares that as a child growing up in Jonesborough, Tenn., she was immersed in rich Appalachian traditions, especially being surrounded by Jonesborough’s Storytelling Festival.
“Now, here I am, deeply involved in helping to design an event to insure that the rich traditions of Appalachia are not forgotten. It’s cool being involved from the initial inception of this educational festival to connecting with incredible artists to creating the blueprint for various forms of the event’s publicity to helping formulate the budget and then finally seeing the event carried out,” said Donahue.
Donahue also credits LMU for helping her hone skills required in fashioning such a gala endeavor.
“Homespun Appalachia” participants will also be able to visit with Pat Biggerstaff of Middlesboro who is a celebrated master organic gardener and author. Pat will be available to sign copies of her “Back to Basic”cookbooks.
Always a favorite at local events, Irma Gall and Sue Meadows and of course lambs and other young animals from Lend a Hand Farm in Stinking Creek will be present. Renowned photographer and retired Lee County Extension Agent Harold Jerrell of Rose Hill, Va. will share his expertise of historic foods to also include his grafting of heirloom apple tree varieties at the historic Henlsey Settlement.
Forester Steve Roark from Claiborne County, Tenn. will excite all with his knowledge of medicinal herbs. Visitors will flock to Tamara Ponyi. Hailing from St. Charles, Mo., Ponyi will introduce all to fraktur, a folk art form practiced by Pennsylvania Germans principally from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries.
As Susan and Grady Simpson of Middlesboro churn butter, mouths will water. To curb that hunger, the Clinch Mountain Restaurant will be on site offering traditional Appalachian foods, including soup beans and barbecue.
Ranger Eddy thanks the Tri-States school teachers who are committed to insuring that history continues to live in their students. “Seven-hundred local school children are already signed up for Friday!”
Friday hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, event hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For additional information on the event, which is also being supported by the Friends of Cumberland Gap and Eastern National, park neighbors and friends can call the park visitor center at 606-248-2817, extension 1075.