Ferrum will again play host to the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival when the event returns for the 48th time this Saturday. The annual festival was canceled last year for the first time ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bethany Worley, director of the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum, said “We’re really excited that we’re able to do this. For almost half a century, we’ve done it. It’s about highlighting the traditional culture of the Blue Ridge area. It’s thoroughly authentic. We take pride in that.”
David Johns, president of Ferrum College, echoed Worley’s sentiments when he said, “The folklife festival has been a feature every fall for nearly 50 years; I am pleased we are hosting it again, following a year off for COVID. The folklife festival has always focused on the creativity, resilience, and determination of our region. Now, more than ever, that spirit is on full display as we rebuild following one of the most challenging periods of our history. I invite everyone to the campus of Ferrum College to celebrate the best of what it means to live in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.”
All of the activities festival regulars have grown used to, including horse pulls, mule jumping contests, coon dog contests, kid’s folk games, sheep herding demonstrations, threshing and baling demonstrations and log skidding contests, will return for this year’s event. One of the more popular folk games, Worley explained, involves placing candy in a mound of straw for kids to search for. There will also be storytelling, custom and vintage cars and vintage tractors and engines at the festival.
For those who want to wet their whistles, a moonshine tasting will be available for the first time in the festival’s history. It will be offered by Twin Creeks Distillery. Worley said food that will be available will include apple butter, barbeque, honey and homemade ice cream.
Normally, there are three stages for music, including bluegrass, old time, classic country, country blues and gospel, during the festival. “The African American gospel is amazing,” Worley said. The gospel music is performed in the campus chapel.
A new stage, the “Rising Star Stage,” will be introduced this year. It is being sponsored by The Crooked Road. “A lot of our musicians are older. They learned from their parents, grandparents and neighbors. These younger folks are learning the music the same way. We’re keeping the traditions alive,” she said.
The festival will take place on Oct. 23 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. rain or shine. While turnout for the festival greatly depends on the weather, Worley said upwards of 12,000 people have attended the festival in years past. “A lot of people have been calling to ask if we’re having it this year. We’re expecting a big crowd because people are anxious to get out,” she said. “We’ve got something for everybody. We can’t wait to see folks.”
Tickets at the gate are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors (age 55 and up), $10 for youth (age 6-15) and free for children (age 5 and younger). Unlike previous years, tickets are now available online at: Event Tickets – Blue Ridge Institute & Museum (blue-ridge-institute-museum.myshopify.com). Tickets purchased via the website are offered at a discounted rate: $10 for adults, $5 for seniors (age 55 and up), $5 for youth (age 6-15) and free for children (age 5 and younger). The online ticketing site will allow purchases up until the day of the festival.