The Appalachian Festival
A tradition in Cincinnati

Cincinnati, OH

March 15, 2002

During our annual hiatus in Cincinnati we had an opportunity to attend the annual Appalachian Festival at Coney Island Park, which is located on the north bank of the Ohio River. The two day festival is a show place for all things past and present which relates to the Appalachian area. This geographical area runs along with the mountain range in West Virginia southward through Tennessee. It is estimated that 1 in 3 people living in the Cincinnati area can trace at least one relative to this part of the country. The activities were held along the Ohio bank of the Ohio River. As we walked toward the main gate, the first thing we noticed was the cacophony of music coming from all directions. The traditional Appalachian people have had to make do with what they could build or invent as the mountains of the 1800s were a place where transportation was difficult.  Everything from musical instruments to games were created locally with their own makeup.  The fretted dulcimer was one of these creations.  Fiddles, guitars, and drums were all made by hand.  The music even took on its own flavor with a sound which is now known as Bluegrass  There were many different groups playing and singing.  The main stage was hosting one of the local professional groups, while others were picking out their tunes under tents powered by extension cords run over the ground.  There was only one fee at the gate, otherwise we were able to wander from group to group listening in for a while and then moving on.  In the center of the park, on an open field, competitors were attempting to determine who was the best hatchet thrower. There is a lot more to it then first meets the eye.  These guys were good.  All were dressed in various costumes of the middle 1800s, they wheeled their instruments through the air with tremendous accuracy.  From the sideline I noted that the trick was to be at precisely the right distance from the target to allow the hatchet to revolve one complete turn striking the bulls eye which was a slice of tree trunk with a standard playing card tacked to the center.  The winner was the one who cut the card in half.  After a while we moved on, only to stop at the side of a tent where a lady had strung a side of cowhide on a frame.  With a branch from an oak tree which had been sharpened to a fine edge at one end, anybody could take a turn at scrapping off the hair from the hide.  This is the beginning of rawhide.  It was hard work and progress was measured in inches.  I had never seen this done before.  Everywhere we turned  there were small groups of costumed folks living out what was a normal life in the mountains of the 1800s.  This included cooking meals in the open over wood fires.  From the smell, the food was pretty good. 

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