This year’s annual Appalachian Studies Conference at Appalachian State University marked the largest turnout the conference has ever seen, with a 950 to 1,000-person attendance record.
Scholars and activists from across the country and around the world gathered to celebrate and collaborate on topics pertaining to the Appalachian region. The conference lasted from March 22-24.
This year’s theme was “Communities in Action, Landscapes in Change,” which emphasized issues such as mountaintop removal mining and sustainability for the coming year.
Katherine Ledford is the conference chair, the immediate past president of the Appalachian Studies Association and the program director for the center of Appalachian Studies at the university. She was responsible for coordinating the event.
“I love Appalachian Studies and it was an opportunity to bring the conference to campus and to showcase our Appalachian Studies faculty and students and our center for Appalachian Studies,” Ledford said. “The Appalachian Studies Association has roots on our campus”
The first Appalachian Studies Conference was held in 1976 for the retirement of Cratis Williams, one of the direct founders of the field of Appalachian Studies, Ledford said.
“I love that it brings so many diverse people together, this is not a traditional academics conference,” Ledford said. “What is really exciting to me at this conference is the diversity and the exchange between the academic world and the people who are on the ground in communities in the region making change happen.”
Rodney Sutton, an independent folklorist from Boone, who participated in the conference, explained his observation about the popularity of Appalachian Studies.
Sutton said that he has been a part of the Green Grass Cloggers, a dancing group from Greenville, since 1972 and has since made many friendships with some of the leading dancers and musicians of the Appalachian regions.
“It seems like now there is this new wave of young people, college age folks that are interested in [Appalachian culture] again,” Sutton said. “Keeping those connections and networking amongst people, just getting a chance to do that makes it all worthwhile.”
Story: JORDAN MILLER, Intern News Reporter
Photo: MARK KENNA, Intern Photographer