Give Appalachian ballads like Matty Groves a good listen at this year’s Bluff Mountain Festival on Saturday, June 10, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., at Hot Springs Resort and Spa.
Laura Boosinger, Madison County Arts Council executive director, says the air will be alive with such ballads, some predating Colonial America. “Though many of them are filled with violence, folks called them love songs,” she says. “Most singers learned these songs in the old way: knee-to-knee.”
Nashville-based musician Kate Campbell will also headline. Her original songs are shaped by first-hand experiences living in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement.
As it so happens, music wasn’t the driving force behind the first festival in 1996. Some 22 years ago, the US Forest Service canvassed a logging road on Bluff Mountain, a 4,686-foot peak in Pisgah. Scrambling to raise awareness and thwart timber barons, musicians like Rodney Sutton and Betty Smith put on the bash.
With fiddles, banjos and clogging, it has since evolved into a celebration of local heritage. This year’s event will celebrate a lesser known history as well.
In May 1917, more than 2,200 German prisoners came to an internment camp in Hot Springs. Though citizens, the Department of Immigration considered them “enemy aliens” and sentenced them to ride out WWI here in the mountains. To honor the centennial anniversary, author Terry Roberts will read from his novel, A Short Time to Stay Here, which is based on real people and events.
“The camp was the perfect setting to explore how people come to fear and even loathe those they perceive to be their enemies,” says Roberts. “It gave me the fictional opportunity to explore the kindness that might make an antidote to war.”
Hot Springs Resort and Spa is located at 315 Bridge Street in Hot Springs. Admission to the Bluff Mountain Festival is free. For more information, visit madisoncountyarts.com.