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By April Wright, Reporter


The 8th Annual Galax Leaf & String Festival will continue to highlight the rich cultural heritage of the region by showcasing local musicians, artisans and authors on Friday and Saturday in downtown Galax.

And this year, with a banner presentation being held and a tribute to The Crooked Road featuring regional musicians, Leaf & String is being designated a partner of the state's heritage music trail.

Embracing and preserving the mountain traditions of Galax and the surrounding area is what makes this event special.

“It's the Twin County music, art and food that gets people to come to our area,” said Chuck Riedhammer, tourism director of Galax and organizer of the event.

The Leaf & String Festival highlights the past and future with old-time music, antiques, traditional arts and crafts and today's best-selling authors.

“Anybody that comes here would get a feel of what the region has to offer,” said Riedhammer. “We have everything from arts and crafts to music and food to alpacas.”

A main component for the 2009 festival is making sure Chestnut Creek School of the Arts, scheduled to open later this year, is front and center with artisans lining the streets and performing demonstrations in front of the school's permanent home on Main Street.

Festivalgoers will even get to try out pottery, painting, blacksmithing, journaling and leather shadow puppetry themselves.

“We're hoping to engage visitors with demonstrations and then have them try it,” said Chris Shackelford, director of CCSA.

Musical Performances

Music for this year's event will be provided by the Blue Ridge Music Makers Guild on Friday from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., showcasing a selection of the guild's musical membership. In fact, more than 20 bluegrass and old-time musicians will perform at the Grayson Street outdoor stage and in front of Barr's Fiddle Shop on Main Street.

On Friday night, the Blue Ridge Backroads radio program will feature Wayne Henderson and Jeff Little at the Historic Rex Theater on East Grayson Street.

Musicians of the The Crooked Road region will be featured on Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Other notable regional talents include Anderson-Strickland, Marshall Brothers & High Road and White Top Mountain Band. Also, the Grayson Highlands Band will perform the music for the square dance at the conclusion of the festival, from 7-9 Saturday night at the Grayson Street outdoor stage.

Book Festival

For the fourth consecutive year, Grayson Street will be filled with more than 45 local and regional authors — topping last year's 30 — with most having new books on the shelves.

This year will offer the addition of an "Author's Stage," where writers will have an opportunity to discuss their books, interact with the audience and sign autographs.

"Some of these musicians are authors, and some of the authors are musicians," said Riedhammer. "So when they're done signing books, they go jam with the musicians."

Just like last year, fans can join their favorite writers at "Breakfast with the Authors" on Saturday morning at The Galax Smokehouse.

Musicians Andy Wolfe and Stu Shenk will also be on hand to discuss and perform old-time music.

Attendees can meet author Doug Butler, a traveling doctor who has written about his experiences, and talk to Jeff Kirwan, who works for Virginia Tech and has been involved in the "Champion Tree" program recording the largest trees in Virginia. Kirwan has co-written the book "Remarkable Trees of Virginia," containing historical and unique trees throughout the Commonwealth.

Another notable is Charles Shields, author of New York Times bestseller "Mockingbird," the unauthorized biography of Harper Lee, who wrote "To Kill a Mockingbird."

This year, the book festival has it all — children's books, non-fiction, fiction, music and outdoor adventure, noted Sharon Ritchie and Theresa Lazo, organizers of the authors' event.

"And we're already working hard to get big names for next year," said Ritchie.

Once Upon A Blue Ridge

The Arts Council of the Twin Counties will host the "Once Upon a Blue Ridge" Theatre Company performing the children's musical "Brementown Musicians" at the Rex Theater on Saturday at noon.

Performed by Peter and Christina Holland, the 45-minute musical play is an adaptation of the classic Brothers Grimm story, featuring lots of audience participation and Christina's hilarious animal characters.

The play is recommended for kids of all ages and their families.

Local Artisans

From quilting to pottery and jewelry making — and even homemade dog treats — featured throughout downtown, "we do everything we can to feature local and regional artisans and merchants," said Riedhammer.

Chestnut Creek School of the Arts will showcase the talents of their instructors providing not only demonstrations of their craft but hands-on opportunities for all in attendance.

Artisan instructors include blacksmithing with Billy Phelps and Danny Wingate, pottery with members of the Oldtown Pottery Co-op, Iara Kendrick with shadow puppetry, Vicky Town with street theater techniques, Stu Shenk with regional musicians and much more.

Visit the hands-on "Block of Involvement" along Grayson Street during the festival, and join local artisans for summer classes the week following the festival.

Festival Expands

This year's event footprint will include for the first time the 200 block of South Main, which has become populated with new and exciting shops.

Galax is also fortunate to have more than 40,000 square feet of retail antique space, and visitors will want to check out the newest location of Golden Gallery on the 200 block of South Main, as well as the East Grayson Street antique shops.

Rooftop of Virginia will also host a craft and antique show in the parking lot of the old Wachovia bank building off North Main Street.

Festival hours have been extended this year on Saturday, and the event will run until 9 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own chairs and musicians of all levels are welcome to bring instruments as spontaneous jam sessions are likely to occur.

The Galax Leaf & String Festival is organized by the City of Galax Tourism Department and the hard work of local volunteers and is sponsored by local businesses including Wal-Mart, Grayson National Bank, Twin County Regional Hospital, Appalachian Electric Power, Rotenizer's, Embarq, Grayson-Carroll-Wythe Insurance, Wolfe Glade Grocery, Cox Auto Sales, Peaks Mountain Oil, The Home Place, Storage East West-South, Jane Patton CPA, Tina's Hub, Horton's Supermarket, Blue Ridge Physicians, Stuart Drive Mini Mart, Loftin & Associates, Professional Networks, Original Log Cabin Homes and Curves of Galax.



Barr’s Fiddle Shop

Noon — Guitar & Banjo Showcase, with Josh Pickett & Houston Caldwell

1 p.m. — Loose Strings Band

2 p.m. — Breaking It Down Band

3 p.m. — White Top Mountain Band

4 p.m. — Stevie Barr & Friends

Grayson Street Stage

11 a.m. — Bill & Maggie Anderson

Noon — Mountain Thunder

1 p.m. — Guild Members Band

2 p.m. — Cracker's Neck Ramblers

3 p.m. — Charlie Markwart & Diamonds In The Rough

4 p.m. — Reece Family & Friends

Blue Ridge Back Roads — Historic Rex Theater

8–10 p.m. — Wayne Henderson & Jeff Little

Admission $8 at the door


Barr’s Fiddle Shop

11 a.m. — Chestnut Creek Ramblers

Noon — Breaking It Down Band

12:45 p.m. — Jessie Lovell & Friends

1:30 p.m. — Loose Strings

2:15 p.m. – Full Throttle

3 p.m. — New Ballard’s Branch Bogtrotters

3:45 p.m. — Blue Ridge Country Kickers w/Bogtrotters

4 p.m. — Slate Mountain Ramblers

5 p.m. — Adam McPeak & Mountain Thunder

Grayson Street Stage

11 a.m. — Timber Rattlers

Noon — Chestnut Creek Bluegrass

1 p.m. — The Highlanders

2 p.m. — 3Creek Junction

3 p.m. — Special Guest (TBA)

4 p.m. — True Grass

5 p.m. — Anderson-Strickland and Friends

6 p.m. — Marshall Brothers & High Road

7 p.m. — Square Dance, featuring Grayson Highlands Band

Author’s Stage (Behind author’s tent on East Grayson)

10:30 a.m. — Jeff Kirwan, “Remarkable Trees of Virginia”

11 a.m. — Cece Bell, sock monkeys with puppets

11:30 a.m. — Danny Bernstein, “Hiking North Carolina's Blue Ridge”

Noon — Andy Wolfe Oldtime Band

12:45 p.m. — Stu Shenk & Friends Band

1:30 p.m. — Charles Shields, “Mockingbird”

2 p.m. — Cara Ellen Modisett, Pat and Chuck Blackley, “Blue Ridge Parkway: Simply Beautiful”

3 p.m. — Keith Donnelly, “Three Deuces Down”

3:30 p.m. — Doug Butler, “A Walk Atop America”

4 p.m. — Tim Pegram, “Blue Ridge Parkway on Foot”