May 252011

New festival comes to Berea in June

By Dave Cooper

Summer is here, and it’s festival time!  In addition to the annual music and arts and crafts fairs across Kentucky, this year will be the first year for the Whippoorwill Festival near Berea, June 16-19.  Co-sponsored by a number of community and environmental groups, the Whippoorwill Festival will teach sustainable living skills through a series of workshops led by experienced and skilled trainers, including some Berea College professors and long-time environmental leaders. 

Most workshops will be 2 hours long, although some off-site field trips may be longer.  In order to encourage leadership development, additional workshops will be led by younger folks and college students.  The festival will begin at noon on Thursday, June 16 and run until 6:00 Sunday, June 19.  Participants can come for a day or for the entire festival, which will be held at HomeGrown HideAways, located in the beautiful Red Lick Valley just east of Berea.

The Whippoorwill Festival is a low-cost, family-friendly event, with tent camping and home-cooked meals.  There will be many activities for children, inspired by the book “Last Child in the Woods,” by Richard Louv, such as looking for salamanders and other critters in the creek that runs through the festival grounds.  There is no admission charge for children 12 and under, and quiet time in the camping area will begin after 11:00.

Confirmed workshops for the festival include: Non-Toxic Household Cleaning, Making Rain Barrels, Dendrology/Tree Identification, Forest Ecology, Playing Banjo, Fiddle and Mandolin, Old Time Ballad Singing, Earth Ovens, Food Security, Oyster Mushroom Inoculation, Mushroom Wild-crafting, Beekeeping, Growing Hot Weather Greens, Primitive Nutrition, Edible Wild Mushrooms, Mountain Justice Kid Collective, Basic Bicycle Maintenance, Making Kefir, Making Hula Hoops (for kids and adults), Making Salve from Plantain and Comfrey, Aromatherapy and Massage, Solar Field Trip to Bob Fairchild’s House, Dumpstering and Curb-Crawling, Deep Ecology, Home Schooling, Growing Fruit Trees, Home Weatherization, Worm Composting, Flat-footing, “How To Survive Without a Salary” Discussion Group, Stick Tag, Natural Building and Earth bag, Waste Veggie Oil Diesel Auto Conversion, Knitting, Making Sausage, Raising Backyard Chickens,  Alternative Transportation (Wooden Bicycles and Plywood Kayaks),  Forest Gardening, Fiber Arts: Hat Felting, Fire Spinning/Poi, Composting Toilets,  Fermenting: Kim Che and Sauerkraut, Making Mead, Forest Foraging, Making Rocket Stoves and Hobo Stoves, Fire Building with Primitive Tools,  Wildlife Observation and Nature Awareness,  Long-Distance Bicycle Touring, Gathering Roots in the Forest, Non-timber Forest Products, Shadow Theater, Leave No Trace Camping, Making Hot Sauces, Bagua and Chi Gong and Bicycle-Powered Generators.

We also hope to offer a workshop on Dutch Oven Cooking.

Evening entertainment will include some well-known speakers such as Pulitzer Prize-Winning Editorial Cartoonist Joel Pett of the Lexington Herald-Leader, Kentucky Gubernatorial Candidate Gatewood Galbraith, Food Not Bombs Co-founder Keith McHenry, Sustainability expert Dr. Richard Olson of Berea College, and Appalachian simple living expert Carol Judy of the Clearfork Community Institute in Tennessee.

After the evening speakers, we will kick back and kick off our shoes for some great music and dancing in the main pavilion.  The Hot Seats, from Charlottesville Virginia, are the headliner band Saturday night, and I encourage you to check out their website and watch their videos.  These guys are excellent musicians.  But there will be another terrific bluegrass band from Kentucky, the 23 String Band on Friday night, which has played at the highly-regarded Master Musicians Festival in Somerset.

Plus we will have old-time banjo player and story-teller Randy Wilson from Leslie County, and the legendary mountain banjo player Lee Sexton, an 85-year-old former coal miner from Letcher County, who will play along with an amazing young musician Jack Adams.

Elizabeth Laprelle from Blacksburg, Virginia is a fast-rising young singer with a golden voice, and Sara Lynch-Thomason from Asheville NC will teach and lead old-time Appalachian ballads.

Also on the music bill is Sugar Tree, three young ladies from Berea who harmonize like the dickens, plus Funny Bones from Lexington on Thursday night.

This festival should be a lot of fun. It’s the first year, so we’ve decided to keep admission costs very low ($15 per person per day) and I’m very excited about the whole thing. Volunteers are needed, so if you are interested in helping guide people to park their cars, cooking or taking ticket money at the front gate, please contact me at I would also welcome some help at the festival grounds setting up tarps and taking down the kitchen before and after the festival.

The Whippoorwill Festival is co-sponsored by the Appalachian Community Fund, Sustainable Berea, Kentucky Heartwood, Kentucky Association for Environmental Education, Kentucky Mountain Justice, Appalachian Community Economics, United Mountain Defense and the Bluegrass Group Sierra Club.

Register online at

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