January 2017
Fest Foot Forward: The First-Ever DardenFest
AFHA members Danielle Ellis and Mason Gray flanking guest performers Carrie and Michael Kline
 (photo courtesy of Rebecca Conway)
Rebecca Conway
AFHA AmeriCorps Member

On the evening of January 28, 2017, over 60 people settled into the Darden Mill for the first-ever occurrence of DardenFest, a benefit concert featuring local musicians and whose proceeds went to local nonprofit ArtsBank, Inc. With snow silently falling outside and musicians not-silently performing inside, the concert was a warm escape from the cold quarantine of winter. More importantly, DardenFest was a way for the Randolph County community to affirm its commitment to supporting both the arts and one another. 

The idea for DardenFest stemmed from a requirement that AFHA AmeriCorps organize and carry out a service project in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Along with fellow AFHA AmeriCorps Danielle Ellis, Gabe Dobbins, and Mason Gray, I helped coordinate the concert, a process that first involved deciding which organization would receive the proceeds. We ultimately settled on ArtsBank, Inc., a nonprofit artist residency program that supports youth arts education in Randolph County schools whose arts programs have been cut. In addition to ensuring that local youth have access to arts education, the organization also supports local artists by providing them with residencies and supplies. Furthermore, as noted by organizer Danielle Ellis, “It was fitting to host a concert for an organization that promotes music education.”

Reaching out to the ArtsBank board proved to be a rewarding endeavor. These board members played an invaluable role in connecting us with key community members. Local artist, musician, and ArtsBank board member David Shombert was particularly vital, as he contacted musicians and friends who might be willing to donate their time to the cause. In the end, we managed to book four sets of local musicians, all of whom agreed to play at the concert free of charge. To top it off, Citizens for Historical Opportunity, Preservation, and Education (C-HOPE) board member Deborah Farrell assisted us in securing use of the Darden Mill for the event, also free of charge. These generous acts of collaboration guaranteed that we could provide ArtsBank with the maximum amount of proceeds and that the concert would be an enjoyable experience for all.
The packed and captivated audience of DardenFest
(photo courtesy of Rebecca Conway)
Though each of the four sets at DardenFest contained traces of traditional and old-time Appalachian music, performers swung from the string band music of the Laurel Mountain Ramblers to the acoustic duets of Carrie and Michael Kline, from the storytelling, fiddling, and banjo-playing of Gerry Milnes to the Cajun and Creole music of Zig et Zag. In between sets, attendees chatted with one another and snacked on cookies and baklava provided by other community members. The acoustics and intimacy of the mill meant that we had the rare opportunity to witness a performance without the stress of microphones, speakers, and electric instruments. At one point, we even had the chance to sing along. “I definitely felt a sense of community when Michael and Carrie Kline sang the Hazel Dickens song ‘West Virginia My Home’ and were quickly joined by the audience,” AFHA AmeriCorps and audience member Liza Morse told me after the event.

The show was simple, the crowd quiet and respectful, and the mood warm. In the end, ticket sales and donations from DardenFest raised $728. At the close of the concert, we were happy to hand the proceeds over to ArtsBank, Inc. We were even happier, however, to know we live in a community in which the arts matter and where people care.
Performer Gerry Milnes
(photo courtesy of Rebecca Conway)
An MLK Day at the Clothes Closet
From left: Chris Taylor, Tyler Winstead, Jess Marks, Breezey Snyder, Liza Morse, Angela Burdell, Logan McDonald
 (photo courtesy of Breezey Snyder)

By Jess Marks
AFHA AmeriCorps Member

A group of seven individuals armed with just their AmeriCorps gear and strong desire to help the Buckhannon community took on the Parish House Clothes Closet this past MLK Day. This group entered this “shed” located behind the main building not knowing what to expect, and what they saw was a bit daunting. Hundreds of garbage bags filled with donations were lined up against the walls of the building and towered beyond anything imaginable for this five-foot-three AmeriCorps member.  
The Christmas season is always a busy time for incoming donations for donation centers, and that’s why there was this massive collection of donations. After getting over the initial shock, the mighty AmeriCorps group tackled this project and made a measurable dent in the towering donation pile. It was a day of carrying heavy garbage bags full of clothes, shoes, books, etc., you name an item and the group more than likely sorted it.

The Clothes Closest crew sorting donations into various bags
(photo by Breezey Snyder)

The system was to open a bag, put an item in either the summer, winter, rag, or trash bin, and once a bin became full it would be labeled, and manhandled to the designated spot. Going through people’s discarded items, especially clothing items, can be an entertaining process. More than once someone would hold up a piece of clothing, show the group, question the fashion of times past, and then reflect about personal fashion choices from the not-so-distant past. This process allowed the group to go through about fifty or more trash bags to create about fifteen “new” bags for summer wear and winter wear each, and who knows how may for the rags and trash category.

After the service project, the members were reflecting about the day at the local Buffalo Wild Wings and were asked which item was their favorite find of the day. Everyone’s answer was practically the same item, the black t-shirt with a T-Rex in the Miley Cyrus "Wrecking Ball" style, pictured below.

AmeriCorps Liza Morse proudly presenting the team's favorite shirt of the day
(photo by Breezey Snyder)

Photos from Around the AFHA: Seneca Rocks Discovery Center & Sites Homestead

Seneca Rocks Discovery Center
(photo courtesy of Rebecca Conway)

By Rebecca Conway
AFHA AmeriCorps Member

Upon entering the community of Seneca Rocks, you can’t help but notice its main point of interest: two sheer walls of bare Tuscarora quartzite jutting up approximately 900 feet from the valley floor. The Seneca Rocks Discovery Center, an equally tantalizing attraction, lies at the foot of this geologic wonder. Prehistoric Indian villages at the base of the dramatic rocks show the universal appeal of this location. Exhibits about these early inhabitants are featured in the Center.

Adjacent to the center is the Sites Homestead, which began its life as a one-room cabin built by Jacob Sites in 1839. Though the building has been renovated several times since, traces of its passage through time remain embedded in the building’s infrastructure and interior. Outside the homestead, heirloom crops typical of the nineteenth-century flourish in its heritage vegetable garden. The homestead also hosts educational events, such as basket weaving, quilting, and open-fire cooking.  

The Seneca Rocks Discovery Center, completed in 1998, provides a wealth of insight into the surrounding area, from its geology to its cultural history to its time as a U.S. Army assault climbing training area. In addition to its exhibits, the SRDC boasts a theater, gift shop, children’s play area, and a fantastic view of the rocks above. On the weekends, crafters, and musicians put their art on display for visitors from all around. 

A Site at Seneca Rocks
(photo courtesy of Rebecca Conway)

On top of its visual appeal, Seneca Rocks offers a plethora of climbing routes for all levels of enthusiast. If you prefer hiking, consider taking the Seneca Rocks trail, which snakes 1.5 miles up the mountain to an observation deck at the base of the formation’s jagged edge. From the observation deck, you can grab a sweeping view of the grand valley below. 

(if you have a photo of the AFHA region, please send it in and tell us why you think it's worth sharing!)

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Experience the heritage of your area! Sites of the Month spotlights events and locations within the region, based on AFHA's four themes: forestry, history, culture, and nature.

Holly River State Park protects more than 8,000 acres of forest in the northeast corner of Webster County. In 1935 the USDA relocated 13 families to the land that today makes up the park. Deforestation had led to extensive erosion and disappearance of wildlife in the area. The state park was created in 1938, and features beautiful New Deal era cabins for rent.

Built by Irish immigrant Augustus Modisett in 1868, the Adaland Mansion is a 23-room, four-story Greek-revival home reflects the lives of well-to-do pioneers that arrived over 200 years ago. Guided tours offer a look into post-Civil War Barbour County, and include the restored house and basement, and landscaped gardens. The barn hosts regular demonstrations of 19th-century crafts such as spinning, carding, weaving, and candle-making. 
Nestled in the scenic Lost River Valley of West Virginia's Potomac Highlands, the Lost River Artisans Cooperative was founded in 1988. The Cooperative aims to engage the community in the artistic process, foster appreciation for the production and value of handmade objects through instruction, demonstration and display, and provide a marketing center for regional artists and craftspeople.
Otter Creek Wilderness spans 20,698 acres, and lies in a bowl formed by Shavers Mountain and McGowan Mountain. The wilderness area is full of streams, most of which flow north into Otter Creek. The dense vegetation consists of second-growth timber, rhododendron, and a variety of mosses and lichens, with elevations ranging from 1,800 feet to 3,900 feet.
Do you have a suggestion for Sites of the Month? Email us at: info@appalachianforest.us and let us know your favorite sites throughout AFHA!
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Our mailing address is:
Appalachian Forest Heritage Area
P.O. Box 1206
Elkins, WV 26241