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Old World Meets New World at the 37th Blue Ridge Folklife Festival

A group of Coon Hounds leaps forward during last year’s race.

With country cooks and crafters, wheat threshers and moonshiners, sheepherders and banjo frailers, the Ferrum College campus becomes a one-day showcase of western Virginia’s “real-roots” traditions. The 2010 Blue Ridge Folklife Festival will be held on Saturday, Oct. 23, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

According to Roddy Moore, director of the Blue Ridge Institute, two new musical events will be added to this year’s line-up. Norman Kennedy, a National Endowment of the Arts, National Heritage Fellowship Honoree and National Treasure Honoree of Scotland, will be featured in the Old World-New World Ballad Workshop, along with ballad singers Gin Burris and Rick Ward. In addition, Burris and Ward will join dulcimer masters Ken Bloom, Phyllis Gaskins, and Marsha Harris to explore the musical magic of one of Virginia’s oldest instruments during the festival’s Virginia Dulcimer Workshop.

The festival, a Crooked Road Music Trail “major venue,” features three stages of the region’s best fiddle-and-banjo, bluegrass, gospel and blues music. More than 20 top roots-music artists—including crisp-picking Wayne Henderson, the joyful Spiritual Seven, bluesman Jeffrey Scott, and piano wizard Jeff Little—are on the 2010 lineup.

“The Blue Ridge Folklife Festival has more traditional music and crafts than any other festival in this part of the country. For nearly four decades, the festival has showcased the best of traditional rural Blue Ridge crafts that have been passed down through the community,” says Roddy Moore, Institute Director. “The festival celebrates a contemporary lifestyle with a heritage twist.”

More than 50 quality artisans will demonstrate rural Blue Ridge crafts rarely seen at area craft shows, from chair making and guitar building to knife making and rug braiding. Many of the crafts will be offered for sale.

To highlight the working farm animals, the festival will include horse pulling, mule jumping, and coon dog treeing and swimming contests that test the talents of both animals and handlers. Border collies, too, will show off their skills herding sheep.

The festival has its own “heavy metal” crowd drawn to the rumble of steam-and-gas-engines and custom and restored cars. Dozens of vintage pieces of farm equipment include a working threshing machine, rock crusher, and hay baler.

Hungry? From black pot chicken to pumpkin butter, more than 20 country foods are prepared onsite at the festival. In addition, there are plenty of take-home fried apple pies, cakes, hard tack candies and vegetables. Children’s folk games conducted throughout the day help to make the festival a family event enjoyed by all ages.

The festival will be held rain or shine on the Ferrum College campus, located 10 miles west of Rocky Mount, Va., on Rt. 40. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children (ages 6 to 15) and senior citizens (ages 55 and older), and parking is free. For more information, call 540-365-4416, email [email protected], or visit

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