Coon mule jumping contest, in which a mule leaps the fence without a running start Photo courtesy Blue Ridge Institute
Blue Ridge Folk Life Festival
Ridge traditions and culture are celebrated each October on the
campus of Ferrum College. The annual day-long festival features
music, crafts, vintage agricultural machinery, traditional food,
and draft animal competitions.
Since 1973, the festival has been hosted by the Blue
Ridge Institute and Museum to provide the public with an
opportunity to observe regional folkways. Many exhibitors belong to
families who have practiced their crafts for generations. Three
music stages provide authentic blues, gospel and other sacred
music, bluegrass, and string music. The making of musical
instruments, such as the dulcimer, fiddle and banjo, are
demonstrated, and musical workshops are held.
Traditional craftspeople display hand skills, such as
weaving, basket making, wood carving, doll making, candy making,
crocheting, tatting, and tobacco twisting. A mountain comforts
quilt exhibit showcases almost one hundred works. Other unique
events at the festival are its work animal competitions. These
draft horses and mules, which powered farmwork into the 1900s,
compete in contests, such as plowing, log skidding and wagon
driving. Highlights are the Virginia State Championship Coon Mule
Jumping Contest, which has its roots in the old-time tradition of
night-time coon hunting, and the sanctioned coon dog bench
contests. Other activities include marble shooting and checkers
contests, and story telling.
At a re-created 1800 German farmstead, on the campus
grounds, costumed interpreters demonstrate the work of a blacksmith
and knife maker. The farm includes a display of an illegal liquor
distillery, which was confiscated by state Alcoholic Beverage
Control agents, who donated it to the Blue Ridge Institute and
The Blue Ridge Institute was designated in 1986 as
the Virginia State Center for Blue Ridge Folklore to document and
interpret the region's heritage. The center's findings are shared
through the festival, the largest celebration of Virginia
Documentation includes a short text report, 19
slides, photos, a souvenir T-shirt, festival program books, and two
Originally submitted by: Virgil Goode, Jr., Representative (5th District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.