Annual Festival of the Hills slated for next weekend

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 6, 2003

Part entertainment, part educational opportunity, the 17th annual Festival of the Hills will be next Saturday and Sunday on the Ohio University Southern campus.

The two-day event features an arts and crafts fair, activities for the children and demonstrations that teach younger people what life was like in Lawrence County and throughout Appalachia in the days before modern conveniences.

"We plan our festival activities so that we offer something for everyone -- all with the purpose of celebrating the rich traditions of the historical Hanging Rock Iron Furnace region," Festival of the Hills Director Dott Mayne said.

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The opening ceremonies are set for 9:25 a.m. Saturday. Mayor Bob Cleary will make opening comments and the Lawrence County's Bicentennial Bell will also be on display.

The Lawrence County Historical Museum will have bicentennial items on display in the Ohio Room at the Collins Center during the festival. In keeping with the statehood celebration, "Beautiful Ohio" will be the theme for this year's African-American exhibit. The display will be in the Academic Building. Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Frank McCown will have some items from the Civil War-era collection on display, as well as a collection of Lawrence County memorabilia from the Clarke Haney family.

Entertainment for the two-day event runs the gamut from cloggers (Porter Creek Cloggers will showcase their footwork Saturday) to gospel (several local groups will perform after a church service Sunday at 11 a.m.) to bluegrass, whose roots are firmly adhered to Appalachian soil.

This year's lineup includes the Huntington, W.Va.-based 1937 Flood and The Joe Freeman Bluegrass Band. Freeman himself is a descendant of Grand Ole Opry members The York Brothers, who toured the country in the 1940s and 1950s, performing their hits "Kentucky" and "Blues," which was remade and became a hit for singer K.D. Lang in the 1990s. In the past, the Joe Freeman Band has been the opening act for country/bluegrass musician Ricky Skaggs.

This year, the festival has gotten a grant from the Speedway/Marathon Ashland Petroleum, Inc. employee advisory committee. Mayne said this grant and all of the donated time and energy -- and space from Ohio University Southern -- has made the festival successful for the last 17 years.

"We would not be able to bring this event to area residents without the support of our sponsors and the tireless efforts of our volunteers," Mayne said. "Many of these people have been with us since the first festival."