Stellar weather greeted record crowds at our tenth annual Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Showcase, on September 15th in Charlottesville. Once again, the Showcase demonstrated the remarkably broad range of folk traditions in Virginia, and the diverse communities who practice them. Everything from dulcimer making to beekeeping, from Mexican mole sauce to Brunswick Stew, and from Sephardic Jewish Ballads to the house rocking sounds of a full gospel choir were on display, repeatedly bringing the audience to their feet.
There were too many highlights on the performance stage to recount, from eleven-year-old apprentice Aila Wildman fiddling with bluegrass legend Buddy Pendleton, to Richmond’s electrifying Family of Praise Choir led by former master artist Evangelist Maggie Ingram’s granddaughter Cheryl Maroney, to blues singing apprentice Lorie Strother tearing it up with her master artist, the WC Handy Blues Award winner Gaye Adegbalola. Also featured this year was a mock fiddlers’ convention, hosted by forty-year Galax Fiddling Convention veteran emcee Harold Mitchell. The contest presented not only those participating in music playing apprenticeships, but others as well, including our master bee keeper Jim King and his wife Gert, his apprentice Jackson Cunningham, dulcimer making apprentice Chris Testerman and his wife Erika, as well as esteemed Apprenticeship alumni Mark Campbell, Seth Swingle, and Olin Bare. The contest even included flatfooting by Vickie Boyd, mother of “moonshine story” apprentice Jared Boyd. And speaking of contests, the multi-year champion Deborah Pratt, of Virginia’s Middle Peninsula, once again opened her last of a dozen oysters before her sister, fellow shucking ace Clementine Macon Boyd, in our annual battle of oyster shucking titans.
Traditional foodways have always been an important part of the Apprenticeship
Program and Showcase, and this year was no exception. In addition to our Showcase standby Brunswick stew, fried apple pies, and freshly shucked oysters, we featured master mole sauce maker Francisca Acosta Ramirez and her apprentice Laura Ortiz. We even invited master single malt whiskey maker Rick Wasmund to join us. Suffice to say, nobody went home hungry or unhappy, except maybe those who arrived after the Brunswick stew had sold out.
The crafts area was literally buzzing all day, with beekeeping master Jim King displaying his enclosed hive, and large crowds taking delight in the artistry of the apprentices and their masters, including quilter Sharon Tindall, gunsmith Wallace Gusler, chair maker Sean Samoheyl, letter-press printer Garrett Queen, farm tool maker Danny Wingate, dulcimer maker Walter Messick, and guitar builder Wayne Henderson. Wayne, one of the most sought after guitar builders in the country, also played a few of his signature tunes on stage. Before he did, he stood proudly with his apprentice, his daughter Jayne. “The most an artist and a father can hope for is that his child wants to take up his trade,” Wayne told the audience, “and I just can’t be more proud of her.”
We’re proud of all the graduating participants as well, and can’t wait to see the fruits of next year’s apprenticeships next fall!
We thank our sponsors:
The National Endowment for the Arts
Virginia is for Lovers
The Bama Works Fund of the Dave Matthews Band in the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation (CACF).