05 November 2011

Blueridge Folklife Festival for Fall

The Fuzzies rarely are able to stray far from the farm but there are many notable and noble recreations and diversions nearby, of greater and lessor qualities. One of the best is this festival at Ferrum College in Ferrum, VA. The Fuzzies attended last year although they did not allot enough time; they arrived several hours earlier this year.

The festival has everything to do with life in this part of the Blue Ridge mountains, from moonshine to horse pulls. There are three huge tents for the day long musical programs (one each for bluegrass, gospel and string band), maybe 125 classic cars, 75 classic tractors, stationery engines (pop, pop, pop), coon dog trials, jumping mules, sorghum making, hog dressing, museum exhibits (the origin of the dulcimer in America), food vendors (many of them church groups), etc. The event is only one day long - there is no way to walk fast enough to see each feature. Although this type of event has its roots in Medieval quarter-day/cross-quarter day observances and market fairs, the interpretation and execution are purely American. It was a wide spread tradition of rural America from the earliest days until perhaps diminished by The War to End All Wars; these community celebrations are a major part of the glue which binds together the social fabric. As these get-togethers have fallen by the wayside, so has the society of America deteriorated.

Mrs. Fuzzy took in the music and crafts whilst Mr. Fuzzy was totally seduced by the classic cars. The American cars of the 1920-1950 period were the envy of the world - and exquisitely beautiful. Nowadays, its hard to tell a Mercedes from a Toyota- or a Ford. Ranked by consumer satisfaction, American cars are hardly on the radar screen. Where & why did Detroit go so wrong?Oh, Mr. Fuzzy is in total lust for a '32 Ford Deuce Coupe...

There were about half a dozen examples of bootleggers' cars, all with huge engines and special suspension systems to allow them to power up steep inclines and navigate the curves on mountain roads - leaving the revenuers cars in the dust.

Former bootlegger car with a 455 horse-power engine (!!!) ain't she jist a beaut?

But the strangest competition to Mr. Fuzzy was the Coon Mule Jumping contest. In this area, where coon hunting was (and remains) a major male pursuit, mules were ridden. The problem was: what did the rider do when encountering a fence? There was no time in the darkness (coon hunting is a night recreation) to find the nearest gate - the rider dismounted and the mule jumped the fence, to be remounted on the other side. The attached photo is of a 20 year old mule who has been a champion many times (oh, did I mention the incentive? $6,500 in prize money). The mule is lead to the barrier and then verbally encouraged to go over it (didn't realize a mule would respond to just words...). Except for this venerable old gal, most stand right in front of the bar, rise on their hind legs as if to stand and then lean over the bar with the rest of their body following. This gal walked up to the bar then backed up about three paces, got one or two steps of speed up and leapt. She sure knew how to do it.

The old tractors attracted him, too, but Floyd county has so many fine examples that Mr. Fuzzy has become jaded on the topic.

Another contest which might be unique was the Coon Dog Water Race wherein a coon dog swims after a raccoon decoy which is pulled across a large body of water on an overhead pulley arrangement. (you can find the dog by the second wake- remember you can click on an image to enlarge it for better viewing).

1 comment:

Blue Ridge Institute said...

Hi! I am the archivist here at the Blue Ridge Institute. What a lovely blog post! We were wondering if we could have permission to use the photo of Phyllis Gaskins (photo 2 of 7) and archive the photo in our museum. You may email us at bri@ferrum.edu. Thank you!