June is a special time of year in the mountains. Seedtime on the Cumberland is Appalshop’s festival of mountain arts, always the first weekend of June. Music, film, theater, crafts, dance, and art have brought thousands of people together, on Appalshop grounds, since 1986. Across thirty years, Seedtime has featured downtown parades, week long festivities, international performers, and the best our local community has to offer in mountain tradition and celebration.
This year a community supper to celebrate our farmer’s market kicked off the weekend, rightly called Feedtime. The first day of June brought families and friends together with elected officials and local farmers to celebrate the market’s opening season. Our community radio station, WMMT 88.7 FM, carried sounds of live performances from the Seedtime Main Stage starting Friday afternoon, running through late Saturday night. Roadside Theater debuted a Letcher County Play reading, Appalachian Media Institute youth filmmakers screened their original works, and Appalshop Archives unearthed four of our rare short films for screening. Dozens of artist vendors and demonstrators filled the Appalshop grounds with paintings, woodworks, jewelry, and more. A blacksmith even set up full operations for the weekend and on Sunday we hosted the very first Seedtime Cycling Tour around the county.
From Hemphill Community Center catering and a Carcassonne Square Dance to the Youthbored Punk Show and Appalachian Artisan Center’s instrument display, Letcher County and surrounding communities created a space fulfilling Seedtime’s mission to “be a mirror for mountain people and present ourselves to the entire world.” Local hotels were booked, downtown business boomed, multiple countries streamed our on-air broadcast, and more than three dozen organizations and businesses sponsored Seedtime with money, time, talent, or in-kind donations, keeping Seedtime free. It takes a village!
“Both foot traffic and daily revenue was the highest we’d seen in at least six months!” -Tyler Ward of Thirsty Heifer in downtown Whitesburg
Seedtime is only the beginning. June has become the best time of year to be in the Central Appalachian mountains. Fall has the colors, but every June brings out the absolute best of mountain people, music, craft, film, and folk arts. Immediately after Seedtime, our friends at Hindman Settlement School kicked off Family Folk Week “to promote awareness of the region’s rich cultural heritage and pass along traditional skills to younger generations.” New this year were workshops in luthiery (instrument building) and metal working. In addition, a host of traditional music classes were offered including dulcimer, bass, fiddle, banjo, guitar, and mandolin along with offerings in woodworking, pottery, and other traditional skills.
The weekend following Seedtime, WMMT sponsored a music series for the Hatfield and McCoy Marathon in neighboring Williamson, WV, featuring several Seedtime performers. Appalshop staff made it back to Whitesburg just in time for Cowan Community Center’s first of a few week-long day camps. They kicked off their summer of learning with an Art School for metal jewelry design, puppet-making, clay sculpture, painting and much more.
To round out June, Cowan Creek Mountain Music School brings “some of the country’s finest old-time musicians to celebrate our rich mountain heritage of lively tunes, heart-felt singing, spirited square dancing and storytelling. Whether you’re an absolute beginner or accomplished musician, eight years old or eighty, you’ll have the opportunity to dig deep into the rich repertoire of Kentucky music and gain experience playing with other musicians.” Visiting Masters and faculty host concerts in the Appalshop Theater on Tuesday and Thursday evenings of the School. We sure hope to see you here. If not this year, make plans now to spend your next June in the mountains.