The Mountains of Music Homecoming is not only nine days of music; it's also filled with cultural events. These events include art exhibits, hikes, kayak or canoe trips, a craft beer festival, a best friend festival, music jams and more.
Individual communities plan each cultural event.
"The people put the stamp on this event in terms of making it unique, in terms of providing people with memories that will be long lasting," Jack Hinshelwood, executive director of The Crooked Road, says. "Contrast going to a concert with spending the day driving through the scenic Cumberland Mountains, going to a canoe float or a quilting demonstration and then going to a concert. It's all in context, and it's a completely different holistic experience, than just saying "I went to a concert.' That's what we're trying to get across in our marketing - that there's a complete experience with great memory possibilities.
"We're looking for folks who enjoy a sense of discovery. When you put the activities out in places, it's tailor made for people who love seeing interesting places, visiting small towns, interacting with the people who live there and have a particular culture. So it's designed to help people connect with that."
All these events require community connections, careful planning and a vast amount of organization. To help facilitate this, zone committees were formed.
"The only way this could have been done was because The Crooked Road already had tremendous relationships and connections to all these communities. I can't envision how anyone could have done this just out of the blue without these connections. Our board is regional, and we have 60-some people on the board. That's because to be truly regional, you have to have a lot of people who have a vested interest and a real say in what the organization does. That made it possible for us to do it.
"How we plan is evolving as well. Last year we envisioned having zone groups of coordinators, and we implemented it this year. It's been a huge help and has made it very clear that each year strengthening and having those zone groups is a great tool. We've met monthly since January."
The zone committees are connected to the organizations in their areas, and they funnel information to The Crooked Road and relay information back to their community partners. Hinshelwood says that as the relationships become stronger more events such as The Seldom Scene event in Christiansburg will occur.
"We partner with the Montgomery Museum and Lewis Miller Regional Art Center and the town is behind them. They're closing down Main Street for this event. The Seldom Scene is headlining the event. The Seldom Scene is an iconic bluegrass group, one of the first to introduce bluegrass to urban audiences. Two of their members (Rickie and Ronnie Simpkins) are from Christiansburg, so this is a real homecoming. That's going to be a real celebration; the community is coming together to celebrate their place and what they have. In my mind that's what the Mountains of Music Homecoming looks like in future years in every community," Hinshelwood says.
Fittingly, since Southerners do love to cook, another major cultural event is culinary-based. Homecoming "Feastival" A Celebration of Appalachian Creativity is held June 17.
The evening's focus is on Appalachian creativity and how the region influences and inspires the innovativeness of the people, whether they are a chef, musician or artisan.
The event begins at 5:30 p.m., at William King Museum of Art, Abingdon, Va., with a cocktail hour and entertainment by The Pointer Brothers. Attendees then travel by trolley to Heartwood for a plated dinner prepared by Chef Charles Parker. The keynote speaker is Sheri Castle, who talks about creativity and artistry in mountain cooking. Nell Jefferson Fredericksen, Virginia, juried master artisan, discusses how she translates her mountain environment into one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry. The Church Sisters entertain.
Community groups that wish to host a cultural experience complete an application form. If it fits the criteria, The Crooked Road approves it and then works with a marketing team to promote the event. It's open to any community in the Southwest Virginia region.
"This is something that kicks the door completely wide open to any community in the entire region to be a part of and derive a benefit from being connected to The Crooked Road. That's the beauty of it in a way. Every community that wants to participate can be part of something that brings a lot of attention. We're trying to raise the profile of Southwest Virginia as an interesting cultural rich place to visit, live in and have businesses. Economic impact and the health of the communities in this region are part of our mission statement. We do it through music, and we know this can have a big impact. Celtic Colours generates $6 million direct spending each year.
"So this is our goal, direct spending in the millions every year and year-round attention. We reap benefits beyond the nine days because we're a 365-day destination. We get more people finding about The Crooked Road through this. They find out they can come any day of the year. So hopefully we see the benefits not only during this nine days, but year-round," Hinshelwood says.
>> Heartwood promotes a creative economy