Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Leaf and String Festival

For ten years, during the second weekend in June, the Galax (VA) Leaf & String Festival has served to highlight the best the region has to offer.

Named for the leaves of the native galax plants that are harvested for the floristry industry, the Festival was originally created as a traditional music event but has evolved into a showcase for the activities of the community.

About 30 authors were available in the "Authors on Grayson" tent for book signings and conversations with Festival attendees as part of the 6th Annual Galax Book Festival.

A variety of vendors selling handmade soaps and jewelry, clothing,
and food--gyros, burgers and chuckwagon (veal) burgers, cotton candy, and sno cones--had booths or carts set up.

This "mountain" was set up at the edge of the two-block area and provided a climbing experience for youngsters.

At the other end of this two-block vendor area were these residents of the Peaceful Heart Alpaca Farm.

The newly-shorn alpacas drew a number of visitors with many questions. Yet all the while, they remained calm, often munching on some hay.

And all during the activity around them, they maintained a low humming sound

It was not surprising that people visiting this booth paid much attention to these beautiful youngsters and showed little interest

in the yarns and handmade alpaca clothing and household items made locally or Fair Trade items imported from Peru.

Throughout the two days, there were many opportunities for dancing. There was a group of dancers, The Footloose Express Cloggers, who provided a rhythmic routine.

Then there was the informal dancing. Flat footing, which, in my observation, has more of a shuffle and is more irregular than the

basic clog step, with none of the hopping or springing cloggers are fond of, was demonstrated by many in the crowd.

We were particulary impressed by this fellow's stye. He must have been about 6'6" or 6'7", but he pulled off the moves with ease.

But the focus on the two days, was the music. Bands appeared at two stages about two blocks from each other. We heard the Iron Mountain Ridge Runners, Sugar Creek, Fishers Peak Timber Rattlers, and the Crooked Road Ramblers among nearly 15 others.

But the Mountain Park Old Time Band out of North Carolina was one of our two favorites. They have our vote for the best version of "Sally Ann"--one of the most popular old-time songs.

At one point in the afternoon, this well-dressed woman made a hurried rush through the crowd and disappeared, leaving us wondering about her destination.

But the highlight of the second day was the performance by the Whitetop Mountain Band, "one of the most popular dance bands of the Appalachian Mountains."

Thornton Spencer on fiddle

and Emily Spencer on banjo have been with the band since the 70's.

In addition to local venues, the band has appeared at regional sites on a regular basis and at national and international concert venues.

The afternoon of the second day was topped off by a return home of the Galax High baseball team which had just won the state championship earlier that afternoon.

And we hadn't even hit the major summer events for Galax--Smoke on the Mountain (Virginia State BBQ Champtionship) and the 77th Annual Old Fiddlers Convention--known worldwide as the Capital of Bluegrass Music.

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