Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Hauntingly Good Time

Courtesy of BSFNRRA
As most of you know, and if not then you should read this blog more often (hehe), this past weekend was the "Haunting in the Hills" Storytelling Festival at Big South Fork NRRA. It should also be a no-brainer that we went as usual as it has become sort of a tradition for us. This is one festival we make a point to clear the calendar and attend.

This year was no different. We made sure our day was clear to head out to Big South Fork for the festivities. It didn't matter that UT was playing against Flordia. Besides, UT loses to Florida more often than not so it really didn't matter much to me. After all, I was able to keep tabs on the game while enjoying the festivities. Anyway, we had planned to arrive early this year so that we could really take in all there was to offer. In years past, we usually would arrive just as most of the crafters were packing it up and heading out.

I had originally hoped that maybe we could get a short hike in. However, with Robin just about to the third trimester, I knew it would be asking a lot of her to give that a go and stay all day and night for the festival. So I was happy to just attend and spend the day with the family checking all the sights and sounds of the day. There were lots of needle work artisans, soapmakers, a tent filled with old timey toys for the kids to enjoy, a necklace and scarf maker selling wares, and it all had a pioneer theme to it, as it's as much of a celebration of the life of a Cumberland Mountain pioneer as it is a storytelling festival.

We walked around the grounds, just as much of a hike as being on the trail actually, to see what each booth had to offer. Under one of the tents an older gentlemen was teaching the kids the different ways to build a fire. He even had a small fire of his own preparing char cloth. This is something that I had totally forgotten about and should really take the time to make our own for our camping and backpacking trips. He had a small canister with denim inside. There was a small hole poked into the top of the lid. He had the canister placed on top of the little fire. Once the fire was going good it didn't take long for a steady stream of smoke to pour out through that hole. Once the smoke stopped then the char cloth was ready. Pretty neat if you ask me and something I will try soon and report back on.

For most of the day it was just Robin, Clover and I walking around. The kids, Ashby and Jodi, being the teenagers that they are, just had to walk around on their own. Besides, there might have been some cute boys. Mom and dad would only cramp their style. We did catch them buying a necklace, playing with old timey toys and they even reported to us that they tried making fire. Jodi was successful in doing so. Ashby however, succeeded in nicking her finger.

There was quite the turnout for the event as always. When we first arrived, some of the kids from the local elementary school were telling their stories. With this festival, the pros usually go out to the area schools the week prior and spend time with the kids teaching them about what they do as storytellers and showing them how to craft their own tales. Shortly after, the Knoxville Area Dulcimer Club took the stage and serenaded us to some good gospel and folk tunes custom to the area. Another musical group (Backporch Pickers, affiliated with the Big South Fork Scenic Railway) entertained us with corny jokes, fine banjo picking, a tub bass and good ole bluegrass and folk tunes as well.

By this time we were getting hungry. We had been all over the Bandy Creek area and visitor center. It was time for food from the vendor. First I shouldn't forget to mention that we all enjoyed a nice cold snow cone prior to this point. I think Robin's took the prize though. But before the stories, we all had burgers and cheese fries. Clover was even fortunate enough to get three patties all of her own that the nice lady gave her for free. After eating, we walked around for a little bit longer while waiting for the storytellers to start the show.

It wasn't long and the storytellers went to work weaving their tales. There were several great nationally known and recognized tellers for the evening. Their tales ranged from a snorting graveyard worm looking to eat dead bodies to the macabre tale of little, lost, curious girls finding more than assistance in a beckoning blue forest light. The storytellers included: Dan Keding (a very talented storyteller using both guitar and banjo to accompany some of his stories), Lloyd Arneach (a Cherokee native indian), Kim Weitkamp (hailing from Virginia, Kim is another talented storyteller mixing guitar and humor with her tales), and Mary Hamilton (A Kentucky native with a flare for haunted stories and 2010 Storytelling World Honor Award winner as well as 2009, Circle of Excellence Oracle Award, National Storytelling Network).

After the day and evening were finally spent, we headed home reminiscing about the tales we all heard that evening and discuss our favorite ones. I think the first story of the night from Dan Keding was the favorite for all of us. The story - a polished up funnier version of an old Scottish folk tale - involves a banjo maker who went north to sell his banjos to support his family. After walking so long, he notices his boots have holes. Long story short, he steals the boots of a corpse - feet and all. He searches for a place to retreat from the cold for the night, and ends up at a heartless farmer's house who turns him away. The farmer's wife convinces him to allow the banjo maker to stay in the barn. Whilst in the barn, he decides to play a little joke on the farmer. This joke involves feet he took from a cold frozen corpse, his old holey boots, a cow that is rather fond of biting, and the imagination behind finding those in combination. The farmer and wife bury the boots, and say a prayer - which tugs on the heartstrings of the banjo maker. Feeling badly for what he'd done, he comes from the barn playing them a tune and they - in fear and disbelief - run away. The banjo maker found this hilarious, and goes into the home to partake of the breakfast they left behind. He's interrupted, though, by a knock at the door. A cold, shivering man is standing there, and empathizing with him, the banjo maker invites him in to "warm his feet by the fire." Only, the cold, shivering man responds that he would, if only he had any. In more fear and disbelief than the farmer and his wife, the banjo maker takes off running, passing the two along the way.

Anyway, the festival was a blast. We all had a lot of fun spending the day in one of our favorite National Parks, listening to the stories and music, and I even got some practice washing diapers the old fashion way. Until next time...

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin