Inside Appalachia Folkways Project

The Inside Appalachia Folkways Project expands the reporting of the Inside Appalachia team to include more stories from West Virginia as well as expand coverage in Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Ohio 

The project establishes the Inside Appalachia Folkways Corps, which launched with 10 specialized freelance reporters from four Appalachian states.

The initiative also will include developing ongoing partnerships with folklife organizations and artisans across the region, as well as expanding WVPB’s educational components surrounding Appalachian folk life and culture, providing a tool kit for educators to incorporate "Inside Appalachia" into classrooms everywhere.

Keep scrolling to see the the Folkways stories and podcast episodes.

Love And Tradition Passed Down Through A Guitar

Sep 27, 2019
John Nakashima/ WVPB

Mill Point is a blink-and-you'll miss it wide spot off the twisty mountain roads of Pocahontas County, West Virginia.  It's also the home of Bill Hefner, a luthier who isn't just making guitars, he's passing his tradition of meticulous craftmanship down to the next generation.


Paul Williams (left) helps Scott build his 'backpack' guitar. It has a smaller body, meant to easily fit in a pack.
Caitlin Tan / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

It is a hot, late summer night in the small town of Hindman, Kentucky. The sun is setting against the backdrop of the steep Appalachian Mountains. Musicians are warming up for the Knott County Downtown Radio Hour. 

It is essentially a recorded open mic hosted once a month by the Appalachian School of Luthiery, a school that teaches people how to build wooden stringed instruments. Doug Naselroad is the founder and the master luthier of the program.


How Fly Fishing Saved a Veteran's Life

Aug 30, 2019
Mason Adams / WVPB

Army veteran Kyle Chanitz spent two and a half years deployed in Afghanistan, where he saw intense fighting and suffered concussions that led to seizures. When he returned to the U.S., he started taking college classes, but then dropped out to follow the jam band Phish around the country.

He spent 18 months on the road, got into drugs and spiraled out of control. 

Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This summer in Morgantown, elementary school students had access to  a special summer art camp series almost every week.

Last week, students learned a  story telling art form rooted in Appalachian tradition called crankies. Crankies are also sometimes called moving panoramas, as they are a drawing or painting that can be manually moved and is portrayed within a box.

Caitlin Tan / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

It is a hot, muggy day along the Monongahela river. Zoma Archambault is standing on a small, sandy beach about 10 minutes from Morgantown. It is one of the few along the river, as much of it is covered in thick brush and mud.

The beach used to be an informal camp spot. Zoma found it abandoned, with trash covering the ground in every direction. It is almost all picked up now, aside from some muddy clothes, a couple hypodermic needles and roof shingles.

Caitlin Tan / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Just about any search on Google for “best white water rafting” includes West Virginia. Around 150,000 people commercially raft a West Virginia river each year, mostly on the New River and Gauley River, which are near Fayetteville, West Virginia. At one point there were just less than 30 rafting companies in the area. Today, they have consolidated into six adventure businesses. 

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.


Caitlin Tan / WVPB

Peanut butter stouts, guava sours, hazy double IPAs, pomegranate ales – these are just a few experimental beers to come out of the craft beer craze in recent years.

According to the National Brewer’s Association, this expanding industry started in the 1990s but didn’t gain momentum until 2010, making it relatively new. Today there are more than 7,000 commercial breweries in the country.

Emily Hilliard / West Virginia Folklife Program

Doris Fields, an R&B, soul, and blues musician and songwriter, also known as Lady D, is the daughter of a coal miner. Her dad moved to West Virginia from Alabama at 10 years old and spent 50 years in the mines. She currently lives in Beckley.

Fields explained that music has been in her blood since she was a young girl, growing up in Cabin Creek, West Virginia.

Caitlin Tan

Greasy pepperoni rolls, pungent ramps, sweet apple butter, shaggy Big Foot, scruffy Mothman – these are all symbols that represent West Virginia. Local treasures that began from traditions and legends from long ago that are getting a modern flare, thanks to a graphic design artist in Morgantown.

Liz Pavlovic’s business “Liz Pavlovic Design and Illustrations” recreates West Virginia’s mementos with an endearing modern, cartoonish flare.


Caitlin Tan / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

In this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we explore how our cultural traditions change over time and evolve as they get passed from person to person.

 

How does foklife fit into our already busy, and frankly, quite stressful lives?

“Henry Glassie, another folklorist, says that folklore is the creation of the future out of the past. So in order to know where we're headed, we have to know about these traditions in the past,” explained West Virginia state folklorist Emily Hilliard.


Caitlin Tan

Walking down the streets of Greensboro, Pennsylvania, it feels a bit like a ghost town. There are houses, business signs, a post office, but only two cars drive by in 10 minutes and no one is walking the streets.

The small town in southern Pennsylvania is just across the West Virginia border. It sits on the banks of the Monongahela River, surrounded by small hills and patches of trees. In years past, the town has weathered the boom and bust of a pottery industry, river trade and coal. Lately, it has been more bust than boom.

Jesse Wright

Across the Atlantic Ocean -- 3,586 miles away from West Virginia -- you will find Wales, which is part of the United Kingdom. The western side of Wales is lined by two channels from the Celtic Sea. And inland is quite mountainous. Within those mountain towns, you will find similar folk culture to Appalachia.

“The nature of the people and the landscape is very similar. Plus, many people from West Wales came over here. So we’ve got those really strong connections,” said Peter Stevenson, a Welsh artist, writer and storyteller.

Jesse Wright

The tall, red brick building that was once home to Rowlesburg High School still stands after surviving the historic 1985 flood.

After the flood it was no longer used as a school, but today it remains the heart of the community of Rowlesburg – it's where people meet, festivities are held, weekly dinners are made, etc.

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.


Eric Douglas, WVPB

Transportation and fuel provided the foundation of a large glass industry in central Appalachia at the beginning of the 19th century, but changes to the industry nearly destroyed it. To survive, Blenko Glass in Milton, West Virginia adapted its business.

Caitlin Tan

See a recipe for salt rising bread at the bottom of this page. 

Salt Rising bread has a long history in Appalachia. Typically, people outside of the region have never heard of it.

The bread often brings to mind a variety of distinctive scents and grandmothers tending to a time-intensive dough in a wood-heated kitchen.

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.

Caitlin Tan / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll hear from Appalachians who have a knack for making things with their hands -- people who make the essentials of life in the old ways. 

“And when I sit down at one of those looms and I start creating a piece of cloth, I feel connected to the place of my ancestors, the people who have come before,” said weaver Jane Gilchrist.


Jessica Lilly / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Mountain Artworks is a studio in Mercer County that houses the unique flair, personality, passion, and dreams of metal sculptor Michael “Mike” Sizemore. Mike has a particular fondness for copper, but he uses all sorts of materials in his work, even recycled glass ashtrays. Like many artists, Mike keeps a day job to pay the bills.


Jesse Wright

Around the holidays, homemade treats are everywhere — whether it be Christmas cookies, gingerbread houses or fruit cakes. One Swiss holiday tradition involves making Rosettes — light, crispy, deep-fried pastries made using a floral-shaped iron mold.

Pages