Northern Appalachian Folk Festival returns to Indiana County
Music, workshops, a storytelling contest and children’s activities are among the planned events for the seventh annual Northern Appalachian Folk Festival Inc.
Scheduled for Sept. 5-7 in downtown Indiana, the majority of the events are free, says festival director Jim Dougherty.
“What we want to do is celebrate the history of our region. I grew up in Clearfield County and I was always taught that we had no significance. The more that I searched and did my research, I realized that the people here in our region contributed immensely to the culture and history of the U.S.,” Dougherty says.
“That’s why we are doing the folk festival. We want to power and enrich kids — their story is just as valid as any kids’ story,” he says.
A former Indiana University of Pennsylvania professor, Dougherty and a committee plan the annual event.
The weekend begins at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 5 with a free showing at the Indiana Players Theater of the documentary “The Closing of the Robertshaw Controls Factory.” The 1981 closure affected more than 1,200 workers.
“That was my master’s thesis. … It’s a sad story. This is the story of our region,” Dougherty says.
A larger part of the region’s story is its people, their resilience, pride, achievements, music and imagination, all recognized as part of the festival.
Beginning at 1 p.m. on Sept. 7 at the Spaghetti Benders restaurant, the festival plans a free workshop line-up on a variety of subjects.
Josh Krug of the Indiana County Planning Office will discuss the multimodal corridor/Hoodlebug Trail extension which will enter Indiana borough, as well as the Hoodlebug bike/pedestrian bridge planned to extend over Route 22 near Blairsville.
Tips for garlic growing is Karin Eller’s topic from the Plant-it-Earth Greenhouse and Gardens in Homer City.
On a more serious note, a local group calling themselves the East Run Hellbenders Society will discuss a proposed injection well they are fighting in Grant Township.
“They are not tree huggers. They are grandmas and grandpas worried about their well water,” Dougherty says.
Their battle, which he compares to “David and Goliath,” was profiled in Rolling Stone magazine two years ago. The group takes its name from the Eastern hellbender salamander, which is sensitive to environmental change and water pollution.
“They are like the canary in the coal mine” for water pollution, Dougherty says.
Cindy Rogers will discuss the various uses of geocaching to complete the workshops.
Know a teller of tall tales or a flat out, well, stater of mistruths? Send him or her along to the Coney Island restaurant at 2 p.m. Sept. 7 for the Storytelling/Liars contest.
“We are trying to build it up … As people know, your grandpap was a good storyteller,” Dougherty says.
Contestants are given three minutes to present a story judges will evaluate based on technique, delivery, confidence, story development, originality and audience response. And, of course, they should have an Appalachian aspect.
“Ghost stories, Bigfoot,” Dougherty suggests.
The best spinners can win prizes ranging from $50 to $100.
Sing and dance
Live music is featured through both days on Sept. 6-7.
“We have tons of music. Our big band is The Clarks. We had them last year and they packed the streets,” Dougherty says.
Kicking off the festival on Sept. 6 are Coastal Remedy, 5:45 to 6:45 p.m.; Jason Gamble, 7 to 8:15 p.m.; and Brownie Mary at 8:30 p.m.
On Sept. 7, The Evergreens will perform from 1:15 to 2:15; Abafasi Wimmins African Drumming Ensemble, 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.; Mike Stout, 3:45 to 4:45 p.m.; Grist for the Mill, 5 to 6 p.m.; Jim Donovan and The Sun King Warriors, 6:15 to 7:15 p.m.; and Juke House Bombers, 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.
The Clarks take the stage at 8:45 p.m.
Walk of fame
From noon to 1 p.m. Sept. 7, the festival will add to its Walk of Fame on Philadelphia Street, recognizing important contributions from residents of the Northern Appalachian region.
Class of 2019 inductees include: Nellie Bly, journalist who briefly attended Indiana Normal School and lived in Pittsburgh, for education; John Brophy, a British immigrant who fought for miners’ rights while working in central Pennsylvania coal mines, human rights; East Run Hellbenders Society, environment; Jim Rogers, former IUP communications faculty member and radio host, arts; and IUP Crimson Hawks, award-winning women’s basketball team, sports.
From noon to 5 p.m. Sept. 7, join Evergreen After School Club and the Children’s Advisory Commission’s Safe Children’s Network for free activities for those ages 2 to 12.
Plans include a bicycle safety course (bring your own bike and helmets, or borrow those at the course) — tricycle riding for younger participants.
Children also can enjoy face painting, a juggling demonstration, Appalachian animal crafts, four tents of carnival games, prizes and giveaways.
Finally, although it will not visit Indiana until Oct. 10-13, the folk festival is sponsoring an appearance of the touring replica of the Vietnam Wall, the Wall That Heals, at Mack Park.
“That is when we could get it,” Dougherty says.
Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, [email protected] or via Twitter .