Appalachia Rises: Resilience, Strength and Transformation (WITH GALLERY)

Published 5:16 pm Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaking before introducing Tyler Childers on stage. (The Ironton Tribune | Jeremy Holtzapfel)

Ashland, Kentucky hosts Appalachian Regional Commission


For The Ironton Tribune

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ASHLAND, Ky. — Ashland, Kentucky was the site of this year’s Appalachian Regional Commission Annual Conference. With the city’s recent rebranding and downtown revitalization, the conference theme of resiliency and collaboration made it an ideal location.

The first day of the conference concluded with a performance by a regional musician who also plays into the theme. Tyler Childers, a Lawrence County, Kentucky native, is an Appalachian artist who has risen himself — from open mic nights in Huntington, West Virginia to sold out shows in Lexington’s Rupp Arena, with a seating capacity of over 20,000.

The opening session kicked off at the Paramount Arts Center, with speakers, including the former first lady of West Virginia and the federal co-chair of the ARC, Gayle Manchin, addressing attendees.

Tyler Childers and his band The Food Stamps perform at Paramount Arts Center as part of the 2023 Appalachian Regional Commission held in Ashland. (The Ironton Tribune | Jeremy Holtzapfel)

“Ashland, Kentucky, is a great model for how a community can reinvigorate itself and reinvent itself,” Manchin said.

She was followed on stage by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear.

“This is a time when we can do so much,” he said. “And my hope is that the unity that we see when we come together as ARC as one is that we can drive forward. I know that we all believe a good job is not democrat or republican. A bridge isn’t red or blue unless we paint it that way. Our job is to lift our people up and say yes to as many good ideas as possible.”
Beshear also introduced Childers at the opening of his performance.

“He’s a Kentucky boy from down the road in Lawrence County. His newest album Rusted in the Rain came out on Friday. Somebody we are so proud of who brings us so much honor here in Kentucky, Mr. Tyler Childers,” he said, before Childers and his band, The Food Stamps, launched into a rendition of Honky Tonk Flame, whichwas met with cheers before the first three chords rang out.

“This is my second time playing here at the Paramount — I used to come here on field trips. We’d come see the Christmas trees,” he said under the glow of the stage lights. “And now, here I am, lit up like a Christmas tree.”

The Appalachian Regional Commission serves Appalachian counties across 13 states. Locally they have recently invested $1.5 million in the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation, in partnership with Ohio University Southern and nearly 20 other partners across nine counties in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, through a POWER Grant.

This grant will fund the Appalachian Freedom Heritage Tourism Initiative, which aims to increase tourism through growing and promoting Underground Railroad assets in coal-impacted communities across our region.