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Writers, presenters, music highlight Tales of the Cumberlands

virginia mapOn August 24-26, the stories will once again swirl like the mists and fog around the Pine Mountain range and through Appalachia as the Breaks Interstate Park hosts “Tales of the Cumberlands: A Storytelling Event” convention.

The fourth gathering of storytelling event will focus on tales from the Virginia-Kentucky border region and from the Appalachian region, from early settlement days of the region to frontier to the early to mid 20th century with plenty of legend and music sprinkled in for good measure.

The event is open to the public, and admission is free. A donation of $25 per couple or $15 per individual is suggested for the Dickenson County, Va., Food Bank.

Teachers of history and English from local and regional high schools are invited to bring their students to the event as there is no charge for admission for students attending “Tales of the Cumberlands”.

The storytelling convention features genealogists, historians, actors, novelists and other narrators who bring multiple perspectives of mountain history and traditions. The three-day program is a mix of family lore, scholarly research and artistic performances.

This year, a large group of presenters will be featured.  Friday’s schedule includes presentations from Randall Osborne and “Blood, Brine and Buffalo”, retired school teacher Katie Meade on life growing up in the coal camps of Appalachia, Appalachian State University professor Sarah Beth Hopton who will be presenting a breakout session on writing your own family history along with capturing your family history in audio and video form. Former Wise, Virginia native Jack Wright will be speak on The Music of the Coal Camps while Lorraine Dechter and Sarah Bates will reveal discussions on their long awaited traditional music project.

James Baldwin will speak on Dr. Marshall Benton Taylor, “The Red Fox of the Cumberlands” and the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency. The evening will bring Blacksburg resident and retired Virginia Tech professor Jim Glanville to the podium presenting his findings on the presence of the Spanish in areas of Southwest Virginia with Chief Lee Vest giving his take on the connection of the Yuchi Indian tribe to the Appalachians.

There’s even music this year as on Friday night, Pierceton Hobbs and Strawberry Jam, will perform traditional mountain music and original music.

Saturday’s lineup includes presentations from Oakley Dean Baldwin as he speaks on his new book, “Carnage in Clintwood”, Rod Mullins speaking on the Life of Andrew Jackson (“Brandy Jack”) Mullins, a regional counterfeiter and outlaw. Local historian Richard Crowe will also be on hand to discuss a local with connections and similarities with the legend “Devil John Wright” on the Cumberlands.

Saturday afternoon will bring to the stage, local pastor and gospel singer, Reverend Frank Newsome singing and discussing his music and music style. Newsome has gained notice from the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and strong airplay on YouTube featuring his haunting mountain singing style. New York Times best selling author Sharyn McCrumb will also make an appearance discussing about research and the stories behind her books, “The Unquiet Grave”, “The Legend of Tom Dooley” and others.

Luke Bauserman will return for another year discussing the “Devil Dogs of Appalachia” and storyteller Libby Shelton Tipton will give presentations of her storytelling style throughout the weekend and throw in a few ghost stories for good measure on Saturday night.

A post-convention tour on Sunday of the street area in and around the Clintwood/Dickenson County Courthouse area has been added to this year’s program to discuss more about Oakley Dean Baldwin’s book, “Carnage in Clintwood” and the August 6, 1926 shootout between a whisky drinking sheriff and a Prohibition inspector on the street in front of the Dickenson County Courthouse. A tour of the nearby Ralph Stanley Museum is also on the agenda as well.

The presenters during “Tales of the Cumberlands” will be presenting stories, experiences, gathered information, music and discussions about people and events in Appalachia while urging festival goers to pursue recapturing the lost art of storytelling and the promotion of family history and the sharing of history.

The Breaks Interstate Park is located between Haysi, Va., and Elkhorn City, Ky., and is within driving distance of Pikeville, Ky., and McDowell County, W.Va. The event runs from 4pm on Thursday,August 23, through 8pm on Saturday, August 25.

The Clintwood area tour is planned for Sunday, August 26, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Pre-registration for the storytelling convention is not required but attendees seeking reservations at Breaks Interstate Park may call The Breaks reservation desk directly at (276) 865-4413 for a 10% discount on lodge rooms, cabins or camping.

“The older folks who can tell the stories are dying off,” according to Stephen Conley.  “Their children and grandchildren realize this and are interested in family lore. With this precious resource disappearing, it’s so important to get the oral history down.”

For more information, visit the “Tales of the Cumberlands” Facebook page at or contact Dr. Stephen Conley at or (804) 687-4447.

Contributions to support the “Tales of the Cumberlands” event may be sent to Conley at 2207 Buckingham Ave., Henrico, VA 23228