The beauty, history, and stories from Appalachia and the fun-loving nature of the people who live there all come to life in October and November in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. And, it’s all just 90 minutes or so from the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas.
Shepherdstown, the oldest town in West Virginia, will be hosting the 20th annual Appalachian Heritage Festival Oct. 9–10.
The festival begins with old-time stories from Appalachia by Sheila Kay Adams, a seventh-generation ballad singer, storyteller, and claw-hammer banjo player from Sodom Laurel, N.C.
Adams is devoted to preserving and perpetuating her heritage, earning the North Carolina Folklore Society’s Brown-Hudson Award in recognition of her valuable contributions to the study of North Carolina Folklore. She will appear at 7:00pm at the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies on the Shepherd University campus.
There will also be an old-time string band competition for a $1,000 prize, and at 8:00pm, a community square dance.
“We get people stomping and learning a lot of the old dances,” said Jan Hefer, who promotes the area.
On Oct. 10, the Showcase Concert takes place at the university’s Frank Center, hosted by Adam Booth and featuring the High Ridge Ramblers, poet Kirk Judd with Dave Bing, gospel artists the Como Mamas, and the final showdown between the top two bands of the string band competition. (shepherd.edu/passweb)
Preserving not only the unique environment of Appalachia but educating and inspiring people to become involved with conservation is the goal of the American Conservation Film Festival. The festival, which is in its 13th year, runs Oct. 23–25 and Nov. 1.
The festival was founded by volunteers in Shepherdstown connected with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center and Shepherd University. It features independent, historic, publicly funded, and Appalachian films.
Forty-six films are on the agenda in categories such as “Wild, Wonderful, Endangered WV,” “Broncos and Bison: Threats to Western Wildlife,” “Diversity and Destruction: Islands and Icebergs,” “Africa, India, Washington, and WV: Impacts of Intervention,” and “Better Living in the Urban Jungle.”
The films will be playing in a variety of locations throughout Shepherdstown, including the Shepherdstown Opera House, the Shepherd University campus, and the National Conservation Training Center. (conservationfilm.org)
Martinsburg area apples and art
Not to be outdone, Martinsburg has its own October festivities. The 36th annual Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival, celebrating the acres of orchards in the area that have produced an important part of the region’s agricultural heritage, is scheduled for Oct. 15–18.
The festival has its own queen, Queen Pomona, the Grand Feature Parade, arts and crafts, live music, car shows, agricultural tours, and contests.
November also has its treasures for the area. On Nov. 7–8, visitors can get their own behind-the-scenes look at local artists’ work at the fifth annual Trails and Trees Studio Tour. Sixteen artists are participating at 11 studios in Martinsburg, Gerrardstown, and Falling Waters.
The cost is free and studios are open from 10:00am–5:00pm each day.
“You can travel at your own pace from studio to studio,” said Anna Howard, one of the event’s coordinators. “Something new this year is quilting. Artists are also working with glass, wood, acrylics, and making jewelry. Visitors are given a ‘Passport to Creativity’ card that is stamped at each studio. If you visit all the artists, you can enter a raffle for a $200 give certificate you can use to buy works at the art studios.”
Festivals, fun, art, and a great way to learn about Appalachia can be found not very far out of town.