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Traditional music festival returns to Carter Caves

Samantha Morrill

Traditional music fans have begun making their way to Carter Caves State Resort Park for a weekend of jam sessions and concerts during the Fraley Festival of Traditional Music.

Originally a family reunion, the Fraley Festival was established over 50 years ago with Annadeene and J.P. Fraley at the forefront. As it evolved, the festival became a way for musicians like fiddlers, dulcimer players, and guitarists to tell stories about life long ago along the foothills of Eastern Kentucky.

Paul Tierney is with Program Services at Carter Caves. He said the festival is a traditional one, with music not strictly Bluegrass or Appalachian, but simply what Tierney called “old time music.”

“You’ll see things from New Orleans here. You’ll see things from folk music, and Appalachian music. You’ll see country and western, you’ll even see some kind of jazz western, I guess is the best way to put it,” Tierney said. “It’s really a festival about tradition.”

Tierney said some notable performers are slated to take the stage over the weekend. They include five-time national flatpicking champion Robin Kessinger on Friday and Saturday night, along with the old-time country band the Corndrinkers and various other musicians from Rowan and Carter counties.

Yet, Tierney said the part he is most excited about is the growing attendance of young people in the festival.

“It’s so important for this area, culturally speaking, to get that infusion of young people,” he said. “People who are interested in that oral tradition of passing down music from one generation to the next. You’ll hear music here that, in some cases, has never been recorded.”

Wednesday night is a free “jamming in the round” session at the Recreation Shelter House in the campground for anyone who wants to attend. Concerts will be held in the park amphitheater on Thursday evening, Friday, and Saturday.

Campsites are still available for overnight guests. More information can be found at www.fraleyfestival.com.