Thousands celebrate folk culture at annual festival

Local News

Thousands descended on the Ferrum College campus Saturday for the annual Blue Ridge Folklife Festival.

The event, which is organized by the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum in Ferrum, helps raise awareness and teach others about folk culture, according to organizers. 

Izabella Eakin attended with dog Keeko and her grandparents to get her first glimpse at folk culture.

“We’re going to just play a few games and do some crafts and eat,” Izabella said. 

“We brought our granddaughter with us today to see how things used to be in the old days before all the technology and all the [ways] people used to have to live and things you had to do to live off the land,” her grandfather, Rick Eakin, said. 

One of those things many people had to do was shell and grind corn. Bob Camicia from Antique Farm Days showed people how some decades-old machines work to accomplish that process.

“Kids just love it, and the parents all are amazed because most of them actually probably have never handled [an] ear of corn when it first came out of the field, dried and ready to make cornmeal with,” Camicia said.

People at the festival got a look at all kinds of agricultural machines, including a steam engine claimed to be 101 years old. 

“You’ve got to know your history to know your future,” said festival organizer Roddy Moore, who serves as co-director of the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum. 

The event, which has been going on for more than 40 years, typically brings 10,000 to 12,000 people to Ferrum College each year, Moore said. Many people running the exhibits or participating in animal competitions like the coon dog water race still practice folk culture, he added. 

“There’s no reenactment or reliving or anything,” Moore said. “These things still take place in our community, whether it’s the different regional types of cooking at the food booths or the people with the coon dogs or the horses or the musicians.”

“It’s our heritage, the heritage of Virginia and throughout the country,” Rick Eakin said. “I’d hate to see that kind of heritage die away and people forget about the roots.”

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