June 21, 2009

YPM Edition 5A: West Virginia Festivals

Notes from Yew Piney Mountain Edition 5A: West Virginia Festivals

I was out all last week so I wasn't able to move forward with new content. I'm all back to normal now.

My theme this week is kind of a follow up of my extensive post on the Jackson's Mill Jubilee in Weston, WV.

Since the news came out that the Jubilee might not happen in 2009, lots of people have mobilized to try to keep it alive. It looks like something will happen this year... it will probably just look very different.

There are lots of opinions and strong emotions about the Jubilee and its survival (for one account of recent actions, read this letter to the editor written by Dave Miller of the WVU Extension Service). To give an extremely cursory view, there is disagreement about how (and whether) the Jubilee should change to attract new people and new ideas.

Despite all the differing opinions, one thing is for certain: the Jubilee needs people to attend if it is going to survive. The wife (and by extension me, but really it's her) are in the process of trying to figure out what we can do to help. One thing I think we can do is beef up the Jubilee's web presence. Right now the primary website has the information you need on it, but you don't get a great sense of exactly what you're in for if you wanted to get out to the Jubilee.
The Jubilee is a celebration of the rich heritage of Appalachia through historic and contemporary events. Over 200 musicians play "old time" music throughout the four day Labor Day event. Over 200 heritage craftsman display and demonstrate their wares in the barn area of the Mill, boyhood home of Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. There are historic reenactments and an encampment provided by the Appalachian Rangers Muzzleloading Club allow Jubilee visitors to catch a glimpse of central West Virginia life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There are glassblowing, woodchopping, and turkey calling demonstrations. West Virginians' contemporary heritage is celebrated through both the Fine Arts Exhibition and Photo Show. Central West Virginia's finest artists and photographers exhibit their works for Jubilee visitors. More traditional shows include the ever-popular Quilt Show and Needlearts Show. The Jubilee hosts the West Virginia Pie Baking Contest, heritage dancing, children's heritage games and more.
All of these activities are indeed there, and quite worth it I might add. But there isn't any media you can consume, no discussion board, not even any photos on the website. There are a lot of things that we could do to bring in more people to the Jubilee, and increasing its web presence is one of the most important, I think. Contrast the Jubilee's webpage with that of the much more popular Clifftop Festival. There are photo galleries, CDs to purchase (and, importantly, sample online) and an invitation to join their Facebook group. That's not why one festival is attended better than the other, but it sure doesn't hurt.

The sad thing is, I had recently purchased some recording equipment and a video camera to add to the Jubilee's media cache... but you know, now this happened. Not to worry, if the Jubilee happens this year, I'll be there, and do my best to document it myself.

So, the music. I mentioned that you can see some of the best musicians in North America play at the Jubilee. One of those is fiddler Bobby Taylor. At the last Jubilee, right before he played, I remember he said, "Well, it's Jubilee time again... thank God!" To me that kind of emphasized how much the festival means to those who attend. Bobby plays with multiple ensembles throughout the day, and is usually outside playing as well.

Unfortunately, there aren't too many videos of him playing that I can find. Here a few resources that I can find.

You can purchase and/or stream free samples of his tunes here.
You can here a sample of another tune, I believe it is a live recording, here.
You can see his discography and tour info at his website here.

That's the best I can do right now. Here is kind of an old video, before the days of YouTube if you can believe it, of him standing outside the barn, playing 'Billy in the Lowground' at the 1997 Jubilee. I can't identify everyone in the video, but the banjo player is Dave O'Dell, who has quite an impressive repertoire of old-time music as well.

Credits: Video from YouTuber cartoonhepcat

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