Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 21, 2013

Folk and heritage conference this weekend

Tim Preston
CNHI News Service

RACELAND — With a day filled with free music, history and  heritage, organizers of this weekend’s Appalachian Folk and Heritage Conference say people who raise gardens and grow their own food may stand to get the most benefit.

“Obviously it will be good for local gardeners and home farmers ... people who grow vegetables at home will get a lot out of it,” said organizer Mike Francis. “We will have the seed swap and a stand with heirloom seeds, and the Master Gardener groups from Boyd and Greenup counties with information and displays about local growing.”

The Saturday conference will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the John P. Stephens Cultural Arts Center at Raceland-Worthington High School and spread across the cultural arts center, lobby and parts of the school. Francis said the event will likely have something of interest to anyone with an Appalachian background, including traditional craftsmen doing demonstrations and selling their goods, along with local “seed savers,” musicians, storytellers and panel groups focusing on Appalachian issues and topics.

The conference will begin with the Appalshop documentary film “Morgan Sexton: Banjo Player from Bull Creek,” which features eastern Kentucky’s Morgan Sexton, who won the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Award for his, “amazingly pure and unaffected singing and playing style.”

In the film, Sexton and his nephew, Lee Sexton, talk about learning music from their elders and each other, and the days when people would “roll up a rug” to make room to play music and dance with the neighbors.

At 10:30 a.m., speaker Ernie Tucker will present “Take a Feather from a Groundhog.” Tucker,  who is a history professor at Ashland Community and Technical College, will discuss his experiences with more than 35 years of collecting eastern Kentucky folk remedies and the stories that go along with them. Tucker interviewed more than 4,000 who lived in a time when hospitals and doctors were scarce in the region, providing insight about the subject.

The first panel group of the day will begin at 11 a.m. with “Farming and Gardening in Eastern Kentucky,” presented by Kenny Imel, Aaron Boyd and others who will discuss gardening and farming techniques in the area. The panel will also discuss heirloom farming, seed saving and beekeeping.

At noon, speaker Soc Clay will present “The Mad Trappers View.” Clay, a Kentucky poet laureate and veteran outdoor photojournalist, will discuss his latest work as well as stories he has collected along the way. The day’s next panel discussion gets under way at 12:30 p.m. with “Tracing Our Past: A Journey Through Appalachia,” by Dr. Roland Burns, Judge Lewis Nicholls and Tucker. The panel will discuss reasons this area was settled, as well as the culture and industry that grew from it.

At 1:30 p.m. traditional tunes from the region will fill the conference center as Michael Garvin and Kentucky Memories take their turn. Garvin, who is a traditional fiddle player, builder and repairman, will take the audience on a musical journey through its Appalachian roots, with the help of his family and friends.

“This should be a toe-tapping and informative session with one of our area’s most talented musicians,” Francis said.

At 2:30 p.m. speaker Christie Cook of Paintsville will present “Oral Storytelling, the Heart of Appalachian Culture.” Cook will discuss the roots of oral storytelling and its importance in the region, and also provide an example of the Appalachian oral storytelling tradition. The final panel of the day will begin at 3 p.m. with “Forging Our Future: 21st Century Appalachia,” by Dr. Kay Adkins of ACTC, who will talk about the current state of economics and education in our area as well as looking toward new trends in education and entrepreneurship.

The day’s programs conclude at 4 p.m. with the  Appalshop documentary “Hazel Dickens: It’s Hard to Tell the Singer from the Song.” The film focuses on Hazel Dickens, one of the pioneering women of bluegrass and hardcore country music. Dickens has influenced generations of songwriters and musicians, and her songs of hard work, hard times and hardy souls have bolstered working people at picket lines and union rallies throughout the United States.

Francis said organizers began with farm and garden topics, but wanted to more accurately reflect Appalachian culture and heritage with the addition of music, stories and mountain lore.

“We wanted to add food, culture, music and craft. We will have a quilting guild and a woodworking guild on hand, and weavers and basket and soap makers,” Francis said. “There will be a little bit of something for everyone going on.”

For more information, visit appalchianconference.weebly.com.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com.