Huntington Music and Arts Festival highlights positivity of Appalachia through art, music

The city of Huntington commemorated the history of Appalachian culture with the official kick off for the Huntington Music and Arts Festival: Appalachia. At the Wild Ramp Monday, the Huntington community gathered in song and dance passed down from the roots of Appalachia.  Stony Point String Band and Tim Lancaster offered a free show while local arts and crafts vendors were displayed. 

“This event was created to showcase unique things throughout time in Appalachia that make it what it is and exposes people in the area to things they have never seen,” Keebie Gilkerson, who helped put HMAF: Appalachia together, said.  

Spinning, hand weaving and knitting were practiced by artisans from Heritage Farm to show how clothing was created before the rise of machinery from the Industrial Revolution.

“The mountains kept people from coming to this area, and we were behind in development,” Alane Thomas, an artisan from Heritage Farm, said. “And this was important to our livelihood. It is truly surprising how many people don’t realize how clothing used to be made and how hard it was.” 

The location was very important when creating HMAF: Appalachia, Gilkerson said.

“This area is one of the biggest antique districts in the state, so we are trying to highlight to young people places like this exist,” Gilkerson said. “The Huntington community is tightknit and it gets a bad rep. Too often the media pushes the bad and the goods not highlighted enough, and that’s one thing we’re really trying to accomplish throughout the whole week of Huntington Music and Arts is to only show the positive. And we all know there is a problem in Huntington, and people like this are the ones trying to address it.”

HMAF events have brought the community together and attracted people from other regions, including musicians, artists and observers. 

Musician Tim Lancaster of Florida said, “I always find myself back here, I love the music of Appalachia and the love of the community.”

Huntington Music and Arts Festival started out as a one-day event, which has now led to a week full of events. Tuesday was Art on the Edge at the Huntington Museum of Art with music from DJ Feminasty, as well as a HMAF Sock Hop, a skate party at Roll-A-Rama. 

Today is the HMAF 72 Hour Film Challenge Screening at Fourth Avenue Arts from 6 to 8 p.m. and Comedy Night featuring local comedians and nationally touring stand-up comedian, Brent Turhune.

Other events the rest of the week include HMAF We Care, Ewe Care at Black Sheep Burrito & Brews, with an opportunity to donate supplies for local schools and teachers, and local bands will perform. Friday there will be live music, and Saturday is the Huntington Music & Arts Festival from 12:30 to 10 p.m. located at Ritter Park’s Amphitheater.  The festival concludes Sunday with a family cookout at Ritter Park with live music. 

Lillie Bodie can be contacted at [email protected].