Arts and Culture

Historical Photos Courtesy of the Nitro Convention and Visitors Bureau.

There’s a town in Kanawha County, West Virginia where some locals say living there is a "blast."

As part of our occasional series, "What’s in a Name," we take a look at the history and folklore of the names of Appalachian places. The town in question, Nitro, West Virginia, grew out of the explosives industry and was home to a factory that helped supply the U.S. Army with gun powder during World War I. Ken Thompson volunteers at the World War I museum in the city of Nitro.

Eric Douglas / WVPB

Pinch, West Virginia is home to about 3,500 people and the longest running community reunion in the country. Since 1902, the reunion has brought current residents together as well as many who moved away.


Eric Douglas / WVPB

There was a time that life along the river revolved around riverboats. In the 19th century, the only way to get supplies or mail was the river. To keep the history of the river alive, a community of enthusiasts in West Virginia and Ohio maintain riverboats for their personal use. 

The original riverboats were called “sternwheelers.” The stern is the back of the boat, so these riverboats had a paddlewheel that provided thrust to propel the boat up and down the river. 

Eric Douglas / WVPB

At any given time on weekends during the summer months, there are likely dozens of divers exploring the world beneath the waves at Summersville Lake in Nicholas County, West Virginia. Just watch for their bubbles on the surface.

It may come as a surprise that a lake known for fishing, camping and boating, is also a favorite destination for divers. They come to the lake to take classes, practice their diving skills and just have fun in the water. 

Anne Li / WVPB

This week on Inside Appalachia, we’re taking another listen to an episode we aired last winter. With the political season heating up, we probably all need another reminder.

We’re wading into the American political divide and bringing you voices with distinct points of view from opposite sides of the country. It’s no secret that these days, we live in the divided states of America. Sometimes, it can feel like the only thing that unites us anymore is that now-nearly universal experience of sitting awkwardly around the Thanksgiving table with family members who have different political beliefs, trying to find a way to avoid politics altogether. 


Corey Knollinger / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Several breweries across the state are hosting events as part of West Virginia Craft Beer Week, which kicked off this past weekend, June 15-16. Some in the craft beer industry are celebrating new regulations that the state legislature passed earlier this spring.

Sam Fonda pours a beer at Weathered Ground Brewery in Cool Ridge, West Virginia.
Janet Kunicki / WVPB

Craft breweries are popping up all over the region. In West Virginia alone, there are 27 breweries and three quarters of them opened in the last five years.

Sam Fonda, from Weathered Ground Brewery in Raleigh County, West Virginia, has almost 3,000 gallons of soon-to-be-beer fermenting and another 1,000 gallons aging in oak barrels nearby at any given time. That may sound like a lot, but his typical batch is 220 gallons, and that gives him the chance to experiment.


WVU Press

The book “Appalachia North” by Matthew Ferrence takes a look at what it means to be from Appalachia and not realize it. He grew up in a part of Pennsylvania that’s part of Appalachia according to the Appalachian Regional Commission, but no one there acknowledged that fact.

Matthew Ferrence describes “Appalachia North” as a geological, cultural and as a personal journey. It’s a memoir.

Courtesy / Marshall University

Dan D’Antoni never got far from his roots, even though basketball took him away from his home in Mullens, West Virginia for nearly 50 years. He continued to be a proud son of the Mountain State while teaching the world about the unique style of basketball that he says came from the courts he grew up on.

Eric Douglas / WVPB

West Virginia is home to numerous beverage companies that brew beer, distill spirits and syrups and press cider. The state also boasts farmers who produce fruits and grains those bottlers could use.

The problem is the two groups are often disconnected.

The “Craft: Farm to Bottle Summit” in South Charleston earlier week this aimed to address that gap, bringing the two groups together and helping each understand the other’s needs. The Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) in Huntington organized the summit. More than 100 people attended.

courtesy Mike Costello

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’re taking another look at the sugar shacks of Appalachian maple producers, and we’ll learn how to use syrup in everything from glazed greens to buttermilk ice cream – and even roasted rabbit. 

Caitlin Tan

Families all across the world pass on traditions and it is no exception in Appalachia.

Traditions like making apple butter in the fall, or celebrating Christmas morning at mamaws, or picking ramps at that secret spot in the spring, or even just going to church on Sunday.

But for one family in Lincoln County, West Virginia, the tradition is building furniture.


Caitlin Tan

Editor's Note: It is with great sadness to report that Jane Gilchrist passed away Friday, March 8, 2019. The West Virginia Public Broadcasting team offers its deepest sympathies and condolences to Jane's family and friends. Click here for Jane's obituary.

Most Americans typically wear clothes made in factories overseas. The same goes for fabrics in homes, such as potholders, rugs and blankets. But it has not always been this way.

Courtesy Photo / The Charleston Ballet

The Charleston Ballet is one of the oldest ballet companies in America.

In a new documentary directed by company member and three time Emmy Award winner, Deborah Novak, dancers, both seasoned and new, share the story of the ballet and its founder, Andre Van Damme.

U.S. National Archive Jack Corn

We all have a unique way of talking- and here in Appalachia, we have many ways of being understood, and misunderstood, because of our language.

It stretches across race lines - and the judgment of one’s language can reveal classism, racism or both. This week’s episode of Inside Appalachia explores one of the ways people are judged: language.   

Swimmerguy269 / wikimedia Commons

  West Virginia University will host a traveling exhibit of 1,100 empty backpacks to represent the number of college students who die of suicide each year.

A news release from the university said the free exhibit will be Tuesday in front of Woodburn Hall from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Melissa Stillwell

Since the show began almost two years ago, A Change of Tune has highlighted some of the best up-and-coming artists out of these West Virginia hills with podcast-y chats ranging from Bud Carroll to New God, Rozwell Kid to Coyotes in Boxes and beyond.

But those interviews have been a bit infrequent, and since West Virginia Day is coming up (not to mention A Change of Tune’s second birthday), we thought we’d do something special: 30 days, 30 brand new #WVmusic interviews that range from Morgantown alt-rockers and Parkersburg singer-songwriters to West Virginia music venues and regional artist management and beyond, all of which contribute to this state’s wild and wonderful music scene.

Hidden in one of the "Coolest Small Towns in America" (Lewisburg, WV), is a world-renowned pianist who has played with some of the world's top orchestras. Barbara Nissman moved to the Mountain State in 1989, and now she's bringing her talents up I-64 to Charleston this weekend.

Sara Mourner

This week, "A Change of Tune" host Joni Deutsch interviews The Ericksons, a Minneapolis-based indie folk band comprised of sisters Jenny Kochsiek and Bethany Valentini. After a number of family losses, the two women finally came together to channel their love and grief into achingly beautiful folk music, as seen with the band's newest release Bring Me Home. Check out the interview below to find out more about The Ericksons' history, the band's connections to folk visionaries Justin Vernon and S.

Roxy Todd

On a sultry summer evening, three women are killing harlequin beetles in an effort to save the greens at the SAGE micro-farm on Rebecca Street that they landscaped themselves.

Last year, Kathy Moore, Jenny Totten and Meg Reishman completed 18 agriculture and business classes through SAGE, which stands for Sustainable Agricultural Entrepreneurs. Kathy says she loves getting to take home an unlimited supply of fresh vegetables each week.

courtesy of C.H. James III

The Block Historical District is a section of Charleston that was once the heart of the African American community. As part of a project to resurrect some of the history of this neighborhood, the West Virginia Center for African American Art and Culture has organized a series of lectures. About 60 people attended the second of these talks last week.  

Charles James III is the fourth generation in his family to own and operate one of the oldest family-owned businesses in the United States, the James company. James said that he remembers being invited to the local country club in the late 80's. But his father in an earlier generation was not asked to join until the 80's.

Roxy Todd

Tom Toliver has seen people with children who are hungry, searching for food in dumpsters in the alleys of Charleston. And he isn’t the only one. At the Union Mission where Toliver has been donating fresh vegetables, the president and CEO Rex Whiteman says hunger is on the rise throughout the state, and in Appalachia.

Shayfan via Wikimedia Commons

It's been called the NASCAR of train races, and it takes place at an altitude of 3,853 feet in Pocahontas County.

Yesterday a crowd of 250 people gathered to watch as two massive trains, one departing from Cass and the other from Elkins, converged at the wilderness ghost town of Spruce. The two trains raced side by side for nearly a mile.

Roxy Todd

On a drizzling morning around 7:00, Sam Rivers has just lit the oak-wood fire for the meat smoker, and smoke is pouring over the sidewalk into the rain. The owner of Dem 2 Brothers and a Grill, Adrian Wright, stands behind him. Adrian oversees the entire operation, from the time when the ribs and pork begin grilling in the early dawn, until the spicy barbecue sauce is made each night.

Marshall’s Bazzie Playing Pro Football in Canada

Jun 30, 2014
Bclions.com

One Marshall University football player has found a unique route to a professional career.

Chip Hitchcock / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

There’s a new novel out from a West Virginia native about a place that’s very special to her. The book is a collection of family stories about life in Appalachia. 

Laura Long lives in Charlottesville, Virginia now but she grew up in West Virginia. She recalls going to visit her grandmother while traveling from Buckhannon to Clarksburg. Her grandmother lived near a place called Peel Tree. She says the image of that place stayed with her for years, until she was ready to write her first novel.

Vandalia Gathering
West Virginia Division of Culture and History

The Vandalia Award, West Virginia’s highest folklife honor, was presented to singer, songwriter and performer Roger Bryant last week at the 38th Annual Vandalia Gathering.

A native of Logan, Bryant is a musician whose roots are in the old-time and folk music traditions. He is the grandson of local folk legend Aunt Jennie Wilson and spent several years traveling with her, and accompanying her on his guitar.

Clark Davis

A new playground at Harris Riverfront Park in Huntington could serve as the beginning of a revitalized riverfront.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams along with Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District officials opened the new playground yesterday morning. The $50,000 playground was paid for by the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District. The playground is just one step among many that Huntington Mayor Steve Williams hopes revitalizes the park.

International students at Marshall are taking advantage of a new partnership that helps them better learn the English language.

Akira Uchida is an international student at Marshall from Japan. He’s taking advantage of dialect lessons in the Marshall University Speech and Hearing Center.

“One class we do is, we go into a classroom and we learn some slangs, not bad slangs, but what American students use to communicate and how to take an order to a restaurant when you go to a restaurant and those kinds of basic things,” Uchida said.

One professor at Marshall University has a story to tell you….and an award winning story at that. Dan Hollis- a professor in the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications has started a tradition, for producing award winning videos.

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