Festival of the Hills brings young, old to OUS campus

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 14, 2003

The smell of smoke wafted from the Ohio University Southern campus Saturday, smoke from open-air kettles of soup beans and cornbread and other traditional Appalachian fare.

The 17th annual Festival of the Hills drew a crowd of old and young who wanted to see and hear and taste.

"I was looking for the honey," said John Miller of South Point. "I found the apple butter, now I want to find out who's selling honey."

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This was his first year coming to the festival. The gorgeous weather brought out a number of people to the festival for the first time.

"This is the first year we've come," said Judy Wain of Ironton. "I didn't know what to expect. We found out there are pony rides."

Those pony rides and the petting zoo captured her 6-year-old daughter, Sydney's attention.

Not far away, other children stood awestruck by The Science Wizard, known also as Dr. Robert Culp, OUS Chemistry professor and director of the university's nature center at the Wayne National Forest. Culp, a colorful corn snake crawling along his arm, explained the benefits of snakes to the environment.

"Some people see a snake, and they want to kill it, whether its poisonous or not," Culp said. "We hope to educate people to the point that they don't think every snake they see is dangerous. Snakes have a purpose; they kill mice."

Rilee Lewis and her friend, Laken White, both 7 and from Ironton, watched Culp with his snakes and decided the whole snake thing might be fun.

"I think this is real neat," Lewis said. "I've never touched a snake before."

Equal parts of education and preservation of the area's heritage, festival-goers could see turn-of-the-century automobiles, a conestoga wagon, Civil war-era memorabilia, quilt displays and see basketmakers, doll makers and other craftsmen making and selling their wares.

"It's just lye, lard and water," said soap maker Margie Fletcher, of Greenup, Ky.

She learned the art of lye soap making from her father.

In spite of its humble, yellow-tan color and lack of glamour, Fletcher said some people have found granny's lye soap to be an effective combatant against some forms of acne and an aid in clearing up poison ivy.

Bales of hay were set up in front of the outdoor stage so festival-goers could sit for a spell and enjoy the entertainment which include The Joe Freeman Band, 1937 Flood, Ironton High School Singers and the I-Town Soldiers.

The festival continues today from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.Today, gospel music concerts will follow an open-air church service which kicks off the day at 11 a.m. Saved By Grace, Crucified With Christ, Inspired and the Porter Creek Cloggers will perform.