Cumberland Gap reviving historic FolkFest

Published 1:11 pm Monday, August 8, 2022


After an absence of nearly two decades, a once-beloved community event is returning to Cumberland Gap

Founded in 1974 to highlight folk arts and crafts, FolkFest will return to the historic town on Aug. 13.

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The event has been revived by the Guardians of the Gap, a local non-profit organization dedicated to preserving local history. For the past two years, the Guardians of the Gap has successfully drawn interest to the area through popular seasonal events, like summer’s Outdoor Fest and fall’s Gap-tober, and community activities, like the Friday Night Movie series in Berkau Park.  The organization actively recruits membership and urges community investment.

The Guardians intend to keep the event just as it was back in its glory days with vendors, artists, activities, and music that celebrates the Appalachian region and the amazing people that call it home. Of special note is its headline musician, Dale Ann Bradley, who was recently named the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year for 2022. She will be joined by multiple other musicians across Cumberland Gap throughout the day.

FolkFest will also give the community the opportunity to learn about Appalachian traditions from masters in their craft. At the Berkau Park demonstration stage, audience members can listen to yarns from native East Tennessean Chip Bailey, a past member of Smoky Mountain Storytellers Association who uses his talents as a traditional fiddler to enhance his stories. Visitors can also learn how to play spoons, learn a dance, make a piece of art, or take a hike with the popular TikTok personality, the Appalachian Forager.

At the children’s area, kids can make a cornhusk doll or a whirligig, or sign up for the First Annual Appalachian Kids Games, which includes sack races, a bean-breaking contest, and a corn-shucking contest. Visitors can also stroll down to visit with professional craftsmen like Keith Williams, one of the state’s master luthiers (the professional name for a fiddle maker), or Jim Bordwine, a mountain man from Saltville, Virginia, who demonstrates the importance of salt production to Appalachian life.

As part of the event, the Lincoln Memorial University Convention Center will host the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum’s “FolkFest: Exhibiting an Appalachian Tradition” exhibit, which includes artifacts from the region and tells the story behind FolkFest. A shuttle will also be available to take visitors to the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum, where visitors can witness apple butter making, tap their toes to Civil War fiddle music, or listen to one of the many scheduled talks on herbalism, history, storytelling and genealogy taking place on the museum’s indoor stage. Admission to the museum is free during the event.

FolkFest will be held from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Aug. 13. The Lincoln Library event is scheduled for 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Guardians of the Gap is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to preserving, protecting and promoting the Cumberland Gap region.