Arts and Culture

Caitlin Tan / WVPB

Usually this time of year marks the start of festival season. So many little communities throughout the region celebrate springtime in their own way. But things are basically on pause right now as the country holds its collective breath. 

On this week’s episode of “Inside Appalachia,” we check in with our friends and neighbors across the region, many of whom are hunkering down at home, trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Courtesy Illustration

“The Bitter Southerner Podcast” is an offshoot of an online magazine called The Bitter Southerner.  The podcast, which just completed its second season, is devoted to the culture of the South and produced with the support of Georgia Public Broadcasting. 

Host and editor Chuck Reece doesn’t shy away from topics that can be awkward to discuss. Reece himself grew up in north Georgia, in the foothills of the Appalachians, and has an affinity for the region. He has dedicated shows to controversial topics like the federally-owned power utility the Tennessee Valley Authority and the book “Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy.”


BARB SARGENT / COURTESY WV DNR

There is a lot happening in the world that is stressful. But the risk of the coronavirus doesn’t necessarily have to mean you have to barricade yourself indoors. Diseases spread in close quarters, so some researchers advise that you should get outside and exercise with your friends if you can. Go on a walk. You can still avoid sneezing into each other's faces and make sure you wash your hands, but your immune system loves to be outside.


Storyteller Uses Song To Inspire Children To Learn About Nature

Mar 13, 2020
Credit Saro Lynch-Thomason

These days, kids are spending less time exploring the outdoors and more time in front of screens.

A 2019 report by the independent non-profit Common Sense Media found that on average, 8-to-12 year-olds in the United States spend approximately five hours on entertainment screen media every day. But numerous studies show that time outside is great for kids, helping them reduce stress and stay healthy. 


Eric Douglas / WVPB

W.I. “Bill” Hairston is a professional storyteller. He spins tales about a number of different topics  —  some made up and some real. 

During a recent talk at the West Virginia State University Economic Development Center on Charleston’s West Side he devoted his entire presentation to the topic “Growing Up Black in Appalachia.”

Hairston was originally born in Phenix City, Alabama in 1949. He describes the area of the town where he lived as being predominantly black. 

J. Tyler Franklin

What is the human impact of a failure to prioritize workplace safety? 

In this episode, which we originally aired in 2019, we’ll hear how weak regulatory laws, and a failure to prioritize worker safety, may be contributing to more deaths, and a higher risk of workplace accidents -- both at the state and national levels. 


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In February 1968, US Senator Robert Kennedy visited eastern Kentucky to investigate the successes and the failures of the “War on Poverty.” In the new book “All This Marvelous Potential: Robert Kennedy’s 1968 Tour of Appalachia” author Matthew Algeo examined the trip and digs into what Kennedy saw, what has changed since then and what remains the same. 

Algeo said he used small stories to try to tell bigger stories in American history. He focused on Kennedy’s tour to highlight bigger issues he discovered in his research. 

Courtesy Illustration / Weelunk.com

Stories told in serial fashion are stories with chapters released on a regular basis, often weekly. Publishers began releasing serial fiction in the 1800s. The format really took off in the 1920s with cheap publishing options and penny magazines. Authors like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who penned the “Sherlock Holmes” short stories and novels, published in serial form. 

John Hale/ WVPB

Most people rarely think about where food comes from. We go to the grocery store and have so much to choose from. But global experts say small and medium-sized farms are critical to future food systems. That’s what we’ve got here in Appalachia, but more and more farmers across our region are facing economic challenges.

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Diane Ravitch is an author and public education historian turned education activist. Recently, she was in Charleston speaking at the Red For Ed Celebration on the second anniversary of the West Virginia teacher’s strike. She spoke with Eric Douglas about the teacher’s movement and her book, “Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools.” The book details the massive private funding in the educational reform movement that began in the George W. Bush era and the teacher’s movements that have spread across the country in its wake. 


Caitlin Tan/ WVPB

One could spend a lifetime learning about Appalachia, and just scratch the surface. 

On this week’s episode, we take a deeper look at traditional cultural practices found throughout these mountains.

We’ll hear stories spanning from fiddle music, to Appalachian style food. We’ll also hear how moonshine getaway cars turned into an Appalachian subculture of families who rebuild and race hot rods.


A Little Daytona In Ona

Feb 21, 2020
Lexi Browning / for WVPB

Ona, West Virginia is a town with two stop lights, but it’s also a place where legends are made. 

Greg Sigler has been racing at Ona Speedway for nearly two decades. But today, he’s coaching his 15-year-old son, Cole, from the sidelines, using a headset that lets them talk back and forth. Cole, who drives a white 2006 Cobalt sporting the number 99, has just embarked on his own racing career. It’s his first time behind the wheel of a car.  


Illustration Courtesy Jesse Wright

This week’s episode of Inside Appalachia is all about love. Not the florist and jewelry store version of love, but love for something deeper: love for home, family, for the mountains. 

We also have a variety of personal love letters from listeners, and we'll talk a little bit about being in love, too.


Emily Hilliard / West Virginia Humanities Council

On this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll hear several stories about people who are working to help address problems within their own communities.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we hear a sneak peak of this weekend's episode of Inside Appalachia. Guest host Giles Snyder speaks with Eric Eyre, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reporter whose reporting into the opioid epidemic won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. 


Caitlin Tan / WVPB

Deep within the mountains of central West Virginia, is a tiny village called Helvetia. It was originally founded by Swiss settlers in the mid-1800s, as they felt the steep mountains, thick forests, winding river, all resembled their homeland.


Eric Douglas / WVPB

“Montani Semper Liberi ⁠— Mountaineers Are Always Free” is West Virginia’s state motto, but it is more than that. It is a belief system that is not just true about the Mountain State. It rings true throughout Appalachia and even mountains on other continents.

Glynis Board / WVPB

Here in central Appalachia, we have plenty of high-tech skills, and many of us can connect to orbiting satellites, and therefore people and ideas on the other side of the globe, in milliseconds.

But there are also a lot of isolated pockets throughout Appalachia where a smart phone is rendered pretty dumb.

Caitlin Tan / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia’s Mountaineer Heritage Hunting season began Jan 9, two weeks after most hunting seasons have closed. It is the second year since its conception, and most notably, it is limited to primitive weapons - like flintlock muzzle loader rifles. 


The 66th Mountaineer, Timmy Eads, in the 2019 WVU Homecoming parade.
Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia University’s mascot, the Mountaineer, is a big deal in the state. In fact, fans are called ‘Mountaineer Nation.’ West Virginians have long identified with the mascot as it symbolizes independence, strength and curiosity -- a true frontiersman attitude. 


Zach Harold / For Inside Appalachia

In this episode of Inside Appalachia we’ll hear stories about holiday traditions that have been passed down through several generations. We’ll travel to a toy maker’s workshop where toys are handmade⁠ — similar to what your grandparents might remember from Christmases past. 

We’ll also explore the grief that sometimes comes with the holidays, as family members who created traditions are no longer with us, and look at Christmas tree farms in Appalachia trying to help preserve family traditions. 


Eric Douglas / WVPB

People have been decorating Christmas trees in their homes since the 16th century. It’s a tradition that began in Germany and spread throughout Europe and the rest of the world. 

Caitlin Tan / WVPB

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll take a trip across our region and meet people in Tennessee, to Kentucky, and Ohio. Each of the stories featured highlight an element of life here in Appalachia that is often overlooked. 


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West Virginia author Mesha Maren’s debut novel “Sugar Run” is set in a fictional version of Greenbrier County. Maren is from Alderson and currently splits her time between North Carolina and West Virginia. 

“Sugar Run” tells the story of a woman named Jodi McCarty. The story begins as she is being released from prison. She wants to head back to where she grew up in southern West Virginia, to live on land owned by her grandmother. But before she does that, she wants to make good on a promise she made before prison.

Ella Jennings

Our region has faced major economic changes and challenges in the past decade. But if you know our region’s history, this story of boom and bust, renewal and recession, is an all too familiar story. In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll explore how these economic changes affect people, our friends, our neighbors, and how entire communities can be uprooted by the closing of a local factory, or coal-mine layoffs. 


Courtesy Deb Morgan

This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll meet several people who are making connections with each other, themselves, or a spiritual community. 

Caitlin Tan / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Little creatures are popping up on the streets of downtown Fayetteville, W.Va. People might find them hiding in trees, behind bushes, on benches or even inside local shops.

“Cause at this point, we’re like a gnome explosion,” said Tabitha Stover, Fayetteville Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director.


Eric Douglas / WVPB

Doctors point to overwhelming evidence that breast milk is superior to formula. But breastfeeding rates in the United States continue to be low. Reasons for that may be lack of paid maternity leave in the U.S., challenges breastfeeding at work, the role of WIC in subsidizing formula and the fact that for many women, breastfeeding, although natural, is a learned skill and there aren't enough people teaching techniques. 

We’re taking another listen to an episode this week that we aired earlier this year about this important topic. More than a dozen women share their stories about motherhood, breastfeeding, and society’s demands. 


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In 2013, Jim Dahlman, a journalist and professor of communications at Milligan College in Tennessee, set out to learn more about Appalachia by walking Daniel Boone’s Wilderness Road from Tennessee into Kentucky. 

The walk inspired the recently published book “A Familiar Wilderness: Searching for Home on Daniel Boone’s Road.” It is a collection of history, modern observations and interviews with people Dahlman met along the way. 


Eric Douglas / WVPB

Inside Appalachia Associate Producer Eric Douglas began his journalism career in Matewan, West Virginia nearly 30 years ago. He recently revisited the town and sat down with Inside Appalachia Host Jessica Lilly to discuss what has changed and efforts to revitalize the town with tourism. 

The downturn of the coal industry hurt Matewan, like much of southern West Virginia. Government records show that there were 3,000 people working in coal mining 30 years ago in Mingo County, bringing in $130 million dollars in wages. Coal accounted for about one-third of all the jobs in the county and more than half of the total income. 


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