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With the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway just around the corner — and as many as 20,000 people expected to visit the area this year as part of the parkway's celebration — the Crossroads Institute will host a series of events, starting tomorrow, Thursday, to get locals in touch with the area's heritage.
During a series of events titled “Bluegrass Gravy & River Quilts,” event-goers can listen to bluegrass and old-time music with local legends on Thursday; explore the history of arts and crafts on March 25; sample and learn about local food traditions on April 8; and hear about what nature has to offer in the area on April 22.
“We recognize we have significant events going on in the area — 75th anniversary of the parkway and the fiddlers' convention,” said Oliver McBride, executive director of the Crossroads Institute. “We have a great story to tell of who we are, what we've done and where we've been.”
McBride said that, as the area gets ready for visitors, it's important for locals to learn the significant components — music, arts and crafts, food and scenic beauty — that make this region special.
McBride has partnered with community volunteer Kathy Cole, Carroll County Tourism Director Donnie Turner, Grayson County Tourism Director Felicia Hash and Chuck Riedhammer, former Galax tourism director, to create this series of informational and interactive events that will help locals get to know their own area.
“We as a region have so much to share and offer,” said McBride. “Heritage can be captured in stories. As we get ready for visitors, we'll be ready to tell our story... The Crossroads Institute is a regional facility, and this is another way to help promote the region.”
McBride said the series of events provides an opportunity for locals to gather, share stories, help the community grow and recognize the strengths within.
“This is a great way for us to greet our visitors and great for locals who don't know the area, who don't know what is available or want to learn more,” said Cole of the series of events. “This is a way we can learn to appreciate our area.”
People might wonder what “bluegrass gravy” or “river quilts” are, said Cole, who came up with the fitting title for the program by taking one keyword from each event.
“We wanted people to see this title and peak people's interest and read it,” she said. “The people that signed on to do this are eager” and are excited to show off what the area is about and has to offer.
“As good hosts, we need to be ambassadors for this beautiful place we call home,” Cole wrote in a flier promoting the event.
Admission is free, and refreshments will be available through area churches, as well as intermission music.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. to browse displays, and programs begin at 7 p.m. at the Crossroads Institute.
For more information, call 236-0391.
Music Comin' From?”
Legendary local musicians Wayne Henderson, Jimmy Edmonds, Bobby Patterson, Spencer Strickland, Gerald Anderson, Willard Gayheart and Dave Neal will jam and talk about how they leaned the old tunes people love.
“There are so many things about music that we don't know about in this area,” said Cole. “We wanted to have a session where musicians could get together and talk about how they got into and its history.”
Folklorist Joe Wilson will emcee the event.
Attendees can view handmade instruments, browse CDs and talk to the keepers of music heritage. A question and answer session will be held at the end.
This event will be filmed and displayed at Heartwood, a museum being constructed in Abingdon as a part of 'Round the Mountain artisan trail.
“If You Needed It,
You Made It”
Tal Stanley, of Emory & Henry College's Appalachian Center for Community Service, and Diana Blackburn, executive director of 'Round the Mountain, will tell how necessity led to unique mountain arts and crafts.
Attendees can also sign up for classes at Chestnut Creek School of the Arts and see demonstrations by local artists. Demonstrations will include spinning, looming, weaving, woodcarving, broom-making, soap-making and more.
“Seventy-five years ago, people made things for use, which become known as our arts and crafts today,” said McBride. “This program will show how necessity led to mountain arts and crafts.” Art will also be for sale.
“Mmmm, What Do I
Orchardist and author Frank Levering will lead a discussion with author Libby Bondurant and Sandy Troth and Danny Wingate of the Matthews Farm Museum on how ancestors grew and cooked what they found here.
Bondurant's book, “Grazing along the Cooked Road,” tells stories of how people grew up and recipes that developed along the Crooked Road.
Troth and Wingate will tell stories about the methods of farming and gardening and food traditions.
Attendees can sample pinto beans, cornbread and biscuits from Squealers Catering, learn area food traditions, browse local cookbooks and listen to local music.
Also, they can speak with a beekeeper, lamb and egg producers, dairy producers and more.
Dan Brown, retired superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and George Santucci, executive director of the National Committee for the New River, will highlight the unique natural resources of the area.
Also, Blue Ridge Discovery Center will host a children's workshop for children ages 4-16 during this session. Children will make nature crafts.
Attendees can view scenic photography and learn about recreational opportunities through displays from outdoor outfitters, area trails, forest services and more.