Folk Fest at Cumberland Gap

On Saturday, August 12, Tom and I participated in Folk Fest in the town of Cumberland Gap.  We were there, along with most of the rangers, to represent the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.  The ironic thing about our representing the park was that no one remembered to bring a sign showing that we were from the National Park!

Folk Fest is a celebration of the Appalachian arts and crafts.  It started in 1974 and was a very big event for about 20 years until it died out.  The event was revived last year by the Guardians of the Gap, an organization dedicated to preserving, protecting, and promoting the Cumberland Gap region.  The group received a grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission which allowed them to pay folk artists to attend.  There were more than 80 artisans, musicians, and vendors.

We set up in the field at the center of the town of Cumberland Gap.  Tom and I had helped load up everything the day before (mostly Tom) and we helped unload as well.  We had a lot of space, compared to most of the vendors and artisans at Folk Fest.  Because we had a campfire, the other vendors and artisans didn’t want to get too close to us.

Karen spinning
Loretta making apple butter
Brittony washing clothes
Miriam cooking
Tom explaining buckets
Stormy using the drawknife
Rachel demonstrating the Buzzer Button
Tom helping Olivia with her buckle
Rick Stewart
Handmade brooms
The basket maker

I demonstrated spinning and made an apple pie to be baked over the fire.  Tom did coopering.  In the morning, Ranger Stormy apprenticed with woodworking and Ranger Brittony did laundry.  Ranger Miriam cooked a stew and told people the story of pioneers coming through the Gap.  In the afternoon the rangers all switched, with Ranger Olivia taking over the laundry and Intern Rachel showing children how to play Buzzer Button.  Rachel is the Buzzer Button master and she gave away lots of buttons.

We were so busy talking to people that we didn’t really have time to look around at Folk Fest.  We could hear the musicians playing around us.  I especially enjoyed a bluegrass duo that was playing at the end of our field.  Ranger Olivia encouraged Tom and I to take a break in the early afternoon.  We enjoyed talking to Rick Stewart, who is a 5th generation traditional cooper.  I also got to talk to Carol Brandon, a basket maker who had some beautiful baskets for sale.

Bluegrass duo

Storms moved in to the area around 2 p.m.  By 2:30 thunder and lightning were all around us and we were frantically trying to pack up the van with all the stuff we had.  We got it all loaded up in record time, but we were all soaked.  Fortunately no one got hit by lightning.  I managed to get my spinning wheel in the car before it got very wet, but the next day it was squeaking like crazy!

All loaded up and soaking wet

Folk Fest was supposed to run until 5 p.m. but it looked like most people were rained out around 3.  I think the day was a great success, however.  There were lots of people and the turn-out by the artisans, vendors, and musicians was very positive.  Our team were the only people in pioneer clothing, but that just made people more curious about what we were doing.  It was good to be a part of preserving a way of life that most people don’t know much about.