BIG STONE GAP — One of Southwest Virginia’s favorite autumnal festivals returns for its 42nd year on the campus of Mountain Empire Community College on Oct. 18-20.
MECC’s annual Home Craft Days festival celebrates the region’s music, culture and artistry featuring demonstrations of a range of activities from traditional mountain life of yesteryear including weaving, pottery making, grist milling, wood crafts, basket weaving, broom making, quilting, tatting and more.
This year’s festival will feature the addition of an outdoor performance stage to showcase the event’s lineup of premier old-time, folk, traditional and gospel performing groups. The Legends Stage will feature talented musicians under a big top tent and the Legacy Stage will enable festival goers to enjoy outstanding musical performances, including young musicians from across the region.
The WISE JAMs program will showcase students from Appalachia, Big Stone Gap, Coeburn and St. Paul and will be held at the Southwest Virginia Museum in Big Stone Gap and Lays Hardware in Coeburn.
“We are really excited to add a second outdoor stage to the festival,” said MECC Dean of Workforce Development Sue Ella Boatright-Wells. “The second stage will allow more opportunities for our youth to be able to perform, and we have been able to schedule many more musical performances for the event.”
The festival will begin with a series of music workshops from 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, Oct. 18. Each workshop is $30 per student and will include intermediate autoharp instructed by Oscar Harris, advanced banjo instructed by Julie Shepherd-Powell, beginning old time string band with Larry Mullins and Joey O’Quinn, and songwriting instructed by Ron Short.
Students may register for workshops by calling (276) 523-7489.
Oct. 18 festivities will continue with a free concert at 6 p.m. in the college’s Goodloe Center co-sponsored by the Pro-Art Association. Performers will include Dale Jett and Hello Stranger, Robin and Linda Williams, Sparky and Rhonda Rucker, the Empty Bottle Band, and the Mountain Music School String Band.
Home Craft Days will ramp up Oct. 19-20 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both weekend days with over 40 music, storytelling and dance performances on the two stages.
More than 200 crafters and artisans will sell and demonstrate traditional Appalachian mountain folk arts ranging from painting, pottery, needlework, woodcrafts, whittling, blacksmithing, corn grinding and many others. Festival goers will be able to purchase freshly pressed apple cider from local orchards, locally grown fall vegetables and freshly ground corn meal.
Local authors will sell books with Appalachian themes and festival foods will range from traditional home cooking fare to international offerings.
Admission is free to all events. Parking and shuttle bus rides at $1 per person per boarding will be offered at five locations in Big Stone Gap including Union High School, curbside on Wood Avenue in front of Food City, curbside at the municipal parking lot behind the federal courthouse/Post Office, the Country Inn and the Comfort Inn.
For information and a rundown of daily musical performance lineups, visit the festival’s website at www.homecraftdays.org.