Caitlin Tan

Inside Appalachia's Folklife Reporter

Caitlin Tan is working as Inside Appalachia’s folklife reporter, as part of a Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies grant. The goal of her reporting is to help engage a new generation in Appalachian folklife and culture.  

Caitlin comes from a rural mountain town in Western Wyoming. She grew up ski racing, showing her horses in 4-H and moving cows in the high mountain deserts. It was in this town she discovered her love for journalism. Caitlin’s career began in print, interning for the local newspaper. She went on to write and eventually worked as news editor at the Branding Iron newspaper, part of the University of Wyoming, where she later graduated with a B.A. in journalism.

Although she was always an avid listener to NPR, she found her love for public radio journalism as an intern with Wyoming Public Media. After, Caitlin spent a whirlwind summer as a fisheries reporter in Bristol Bay, Alaska - international sockeye salmon capital - working for KDLG, the local NPR affiliate station. She was a solo-correspondent based in Naknek - a Native village of 500 people - where she climbed on commercial fishing boats and trudged the rainy, muddy beaches to find the fishing scoop.

This job helped her land a producing internship, and later a job as news assistant for NPR’s All Things Considered in D.C. She worked closely with the entire team - helping to produce everything from a manicly decorated Christmas house to live interviews with U.S. senators to an exclusive interview with fashion designer Alexander Wang.

All along, Caitlin always knew she wanted to return to feature reporting in a rural area. As shown from her fisheries reporting, she loves to immerse herself in new cultures. So when the Inside Appalachia folklife position opened up she jumped at the opportunity. Caitlin and her Border Collie up and moved to Morgantown, WV. As someone who grew up in a rural area, Caitlin understands the value and heritage of tradition and craftsmanship in a culture. She’s very eager to further her knowledge, as well as engage and report on folklife in Appalachia.

 

Ways to Connect

Marijuana
Flickr / eggrole

Efforts to provide qualifying West Virginians with medical cannabis are underway with new developments, three years after the Medical Cannabis Act was signed into law. 

The West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis is accepting permit applications for medical cannabis labs after previously closing this process on Feb. 18.            


New River Gorge Bridge
Chad Matlick / WVPB

A new report shows that tourism in southern West Virginia’s national parks injected more than $70 million into the local economies in 2019, which was before the coronavirus pandemic impacted the business in the state. 


Ben McManus

As part of our Inside Appalachia folkways project, we have been exploring Appalachia’s unique connection to Wales. Both regions mountainous landscapes, a history of coal extraction, folktales and it turns out, music. 

There is a growing community of musicians from both Wales and Appalachia who share an interest in the culture that binds them together.


Emily Hilliard / West Virginia Folklife Program

An old-time musician from Clay County has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts’ fellowship -- the first West Virginian in 20 years to receive the honor.

John Morris has been named one of nine NEA National Heritage Fellows. According to a press release, it is the highest honor in the United States for folk and traditional arts. 

Taylor Wright // West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey

The fourth annual West Virginia art and writing contest aimed at raising awareness of prescription painkiller abuse has ended, with a student from the southern region named as the winner.

Fourth grader Taylor Wright of Lashmeet/Matoaka Elementary School in Mercer County was selected as the statewide winner in the ‘Kids Kick Opioids’ contest, according to a press release from Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. The southern coalfields, including Mercer County, have been impacted especially hard by the epidemic.

Annetta Coffman

This story was updated on June 16, 2020, at 4:50 p.m. to include a statement from the Environmental Protection Agency. 

The rain poured down for hours on Sunday, slamming the valleys of Fayette County with water. As the earth became saturated, local streams swelled. 

Minden resident Marie Collins said the water washed out the underpinning of her house.

“We had to sleep in the car last night,” Collins said on Monday. 


West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The Appalachian String Band Music Festival, held each year in southern West Virginia, has been canceled this year because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. 

The West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History made the announcement today.


Jesse Wright / WVPB

West Virginia University released preliminary plans Wednesday, June 3, detailing what the fall and spring semesters will look like as a result of the continued COVID-19 pandemic.

Students will return to campus and in-person classes will resume for WVU’s fall semester; however, it will look a bit different than pre-coronavirus.

Peter Stevenson

Before the pandemic hit, our Inside Appalachia team was planning a reporting trip to Wales as part of our ongoing folkways project, as the country has a strong historical connection to Appalachia that we wanted to explore. The trip’s been postponed, but in a special report as part of the Inside Appalachia Folkways Project, Caitlin Tan interviewed two Welsh storytellers who through their craft bring us artistic parallels between our region’s sister country.


Canabis Oil Medical Marijuana
Adobe Stock

Starting Thursday, May 28, West Virginia will be one step closer to administering medical marijuana to qualifying residents.

For the first time, West Virginia physicians will be permitted to begin the registration process to treat patients within the state who require medical marijuana.


Fayette County Map
David Benbennick / wikimedia commons

The West Virginia Public Service Commission has opened a general investigation into the quality of water service provided by the Page-Kincaid Public Service District in Fayette County. 

As of May 18th, the entire service district is under a boil water advisory for an unspecified amount of time. It serves more than 600 Fayette County customers.

Lt. Dennis Feazell, of the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, watches for debris as he and a co-worker search flooded homes in Rainelle, W.Va., Saturday, June 25, 2016.
Steve Helber / Associated Press

Flood mitigation efforts continue in southern West Virginia through a grant funded study by Marshall University.

The long-term project focuses on Rainelle in Greenbrier County, which has experienced significant flooding in the past 20 years. The Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] awarded more than $1 million to continue the study.

Stradwick's Fade Cave Facebook Page

Across the U.S., some states, including West Virginia, are beginning to loosen restrictions meant to reduce the spread of coronavirus, allowing for some non-essential businesses to reopen. 

On Monday, May 4, West Virginia entered the second week of Gov. Jim Justice’s six-week reopening plan, “The Comeback.” During week two, businesses with fewer than 10 employees, salons and barber shops, dog grooming services, and outdoor dining restaurants are allowed to reopen. Churches and other places of worship are allowed to conduct funerals and other services with limited gathering sizes. 


Deep Mountain Farm

Just outside Fayetteville, West Virginia, there's a 42-acre farm that has just about everything -- chickens, lambs, sheep, produce and dogs. The latest addition is a litter of Great Pyrenees puppies, who will become guardian dogs for the sheep.

Christine Weirick owns and operates Deep Mountain Farm with her husband Chris Jackson and their two young daughters. 


Caitlin Tan / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This time of year, the Hatfield McCoy trail system in southern West Virginia usually is buzzing with ATVs. In fact, Jeffrey Lusk, director of the Hatfield McCoy Regional Recreation Authority, said he makes almost half of his permit sales for the year from March 1 to April 30. 

But for towns and local businesses along the trail system, things are pretty quiet these days. The Hatfield McCoy trails have been closed since March 20, by an executive order from Governor Jim Justice to enforce social distancing and public health recommendations from the federal government. 


Donna Graham

Just over 100 years ago, West Virginia faced the Spanish Flu, which is thought to be one of the world’s deadliest pandemics in modern history. Records indicate 50 million people died worldwide, and nearly 3,000 of those were West Virginians. 

And while researchers have been hesitant to compare the Spanish Flu with the current pandemic, there have been some grim similarities. The Centers for Disease Control estimates well over 100,000 people have died worldwide from coronavirus.  


region1workforcewestvirginia.org

West Virginia has received two federal grants to help with infrastructure and workforce projects in the state.

More than $2 million was awarded to Workforce West Virginia through the National Dislocated Worker Grant for programs to help out-of-work coal miners.

Debra Williby-Walker

When Brady Walker first learned that some people go hungry, without a meal, he was four years old. And unlike most kids his age, he decided to take action.

Brady lives in Mercer County, W.Va., but he had a family friend named Ursula Candasamy, who has since passed away, in South Africa. So Brady began by collecting produce seed packets — some donated, some with his own savings — and he sent 910 packets to Ursula who distributed them to those in need. 

Brady, who is now eight years old, said he is motivated to keep sending seeds because, “people won’t be hungry, and I’m helping other people, and I like helping people.”

Amy Knicely

As the number of coronavirus cases have quickly grown across the nation, including in West Virginia, leaving the house has become increasingly discouraged. In fact, the White House Coronavirus Task Force recently recommended to either not go or limit trips to the grocery store to avoid large gatherings. 

And even when people do go to the store the shelves are often sparse. Although the National Grocers Association assures there’s not a food shortage in the country, some people are preparing just in case. 


Caitlin Tan

In March, West Virginia saw 90,000 unemployment claims. In a typical month the state averages 5,000. According to the U.S. Labor Department, one of the industries hit the hardest nationwide is arts and entertainment — a sector that depends heavily on social events, something that is nearly impossible during the coronavirus pandemic.

We recently spoke with West Virginian artists to see how they are coping, and we wanted to check in with the Tamarack Foundation For The Arts, which directly supports nearly 2,000 artists in the state. They have recently promoted their interactive newsletter to help West Virginian artists still feel a sense of community.

Susan Brown and Jenny Bardwell

Kerri Namolik lives in Shepherdstown, W.Va. with her husband and two daughters. She is an assistant professor for Blue Ridge Community and Technical College and is working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

But like many parents, she has also found herself homeschooling her two girls – Scarlett and Lilah – and using baking as a way to implement some math.


e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

American soul singer legend and West Virginia native Bill Withers has died at 81 of heart complications, unrelated to coronavirus, according to the Associated Press. In a statement released to the AP, Withers’ family said he died Monday in Los Angeles. 

New River Gorge Bridge
Chad Matlick / WVPB

Three national parks in West Virginia closed their facilities at noon on Tuesday in response to COVID-19.

Campgrounds and restrooms in New River Gorge National River, Gauley River National Recreation Area and Bluestone National Scenic River are closed indefinitely. 


West Virginia Mask Army

Across the country, medical professionals fighting the coronavirus pandemic are struggling to get their hands on protective gear – things as basic as goggles, gloves and masks – and without federal assistance, groups of West Virginians are handmaking face masks at their own expense.


Caitlin Tan / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

For the past two years, West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Inside Appalachia team has been working on a folkways project that focuses on artisans and craftsmen within Appalachia.

For many of these people, their art or craft is their primary income, and a lot of them depend on social events, like concerts, farmers markets and craft fairs. In this new world of coronavirus and social distancing, that is proving difficult.

A view of the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, which is part of the Monongahela National Forest in eastern West VIrginia.
Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The largest national forest in West Virginia announced Wednesday it is shutting down its campgrounds in an attempt to encourage people to social distance.

The Monongahela National Forest has closed all of its 24 developed campgrounds and campsites effective immediately. 


West Virginia Public Broadcasting

For the past few months, West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Inside Appalachia Folkways Project has cultivated a connection between two groups of people thousands of miles away — high schools in Lincoln County, West Virginia and in Merthyr Tydfill, Wales.


Courtesy Berkeley County Schools

Schools across West Virginia closed Monday, March 16, for at least two weeks in an effort to help stem the transmission of the coronavirus. 

Since the shutdown was announced, West Virginians around the state have been working to make sure students are fed. According to the West Virginia Department of Education, more than two-thirds  of school-aged children, or more than 183,000, qualify for free or reduced-priced meals. 

Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Check back here for the latest coverage on the coronavirus.

Communities in Southern West Virginia worked to feed kids Monday, the first day schools were closed in an effort to slow the potential spread of the coronavirus.


Wikimedia Commons

One of West Virginia’s largest public water utilities announced Friday it is making adjustments because of the potential spread of coronavirus.


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