Storytellers – Terri Ingalls, ReVonda Crow, and Vicki Byrd

One of our first methods of communications was through storytelling.  Whether told around a campfire, kitchen table, or at bedtime, stories help to reinforce cultural values and assist in creating a sense of who we are as individuals and a group.  While we tend to think of stories as spoken narratives, songs, symbols and art also “tell” stories of who we are.

Stories also help us make sense of those occurrences that seem to defy explanation.  For example, virtual every culture has a creation story.  Most have a story that describes why the sun rises in the morning, travels across the sky, and then sets in the evening.  Stories seek to make life less complicated.

Terri Ingalls, Vicki Byrd, and ReVonda Crow are professional storytellers from Surry and Wilkes Counties.  As members of the North Carolina Storytelling Guild and the Surry County Storytelling Guild, they work closely to develop each other and enhance their skills.

Terri Ingalls

Terri Ingalls

Terri Ingalls has worked as a flight attendant, travel agent, media buyer, theatre subscription office manager, and professional actor at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego.  She left a 15-year stint as an administrative assistant at the North Carolina School of the Arts to concentrate on writing, and was a 2001 and 2011 recipient of a Regional Artist Project Grant from The Arts Council of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Terri became interested in storytelling and in 2005 helped create the Surry County Storytelling Guild.  She has told stories for the Northwest Regional Library system, Ridgecrest Retirement Community, the Cherry Orchard Theatre (in Ararat, VA), and at Bud Break (Surry County’s inaugural wine festival).  As part of the NC Arts Council 2nd Saturday Celebrations, she told stories at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial in Asheville, NC and Horne Creek Living Historical Farm (a 45-minute original work created for them on the history of Horne Creek).  She also performed original works at a national woman’s conference in Greensboro.  The summer of 2010 Terri created a one-woman show titled “Pearl, Your Mother,” which premiered at the Cherry Orchard Theatre. In 2011, She was commissioned by the Gilmer-Smith Foundation to research and tell the life story of Gertrude Smith, creator of the Foundation and a legendary eccentric.  That 45-minute work premiered at the Gertrude Smith House in Mount Airy in September 2011 at the Preservation NC’s Annual Conference.

ReVonda Crow

ReVonda Crow

ReVonda Crow has lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains since 1989. Raised in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, she moved west to attend ASU where she received a BA in cultural anthropology. While teaching English in China, ReVonda wove stories into her classroom presentations, a method she continued while teaching back home at Wilkes Community College.

Revonda has also told at a variety of venues, such as music, heritage, and storytelling festivals; the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum; and retirement homes. Her organizational skills have been put to good use in event planning and coordination of those events.

ReVonda enjoys telling Brer Rabbit stories, ghost stories, stories with a twist, and local history and cultural tales that appeal to both adults and children. Plans are in the works for ReVonda to be storytelling in Ireland this fall.

Vicki Byrd

Vicki Byrd

Vicki Byrd recently retired after 31 years of teaching elementary aged children in the public school system.  She often entertained her students with stories of “the goofy things I did while in school.”  Her teaching career spanned five different systems.

Vicki has attended storytelling workshops by Connie Regan-Blake and David Holt.  She credits the Surry County Guild as helping her grow and develop her skills.

Vicki’s storytelling resume includes stories told at Tellabration, Horn Creek Farm, the Cancer Survivor Dinner at Cedarbrook Country Club, Wilkes County Schools, Elkin City Schools, Ocracoke Preservation Museum on Ocracoke Island, and the Carroll County (Va.) Agricultural Fair.  She has also participated in a storytelling workshop on Ocracoke Island.

These talented and entertaining ladies will bring their program to Sparta on July 11, 2015.  The family-friendly event will begin at 6:00 pm at Crouse Park.

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For more information contact the Alleghany Chamber of Commerce at 336-372-5473 or visit http://visitalleghanync.com/

Kim Caudill – Main Street Coordinator – Sparta Revitalization Committee

In social theory, framing is a schema of interpretation, a collection of anecdotes and stereotypes, that individuals rely on to understand and respond to events.  – – – Erving Goffman

Social theory tells us that we frame issues and events that arise as either problems or opportunities.  This goes well beyond whether we view the glass as half empty or half full.  Regardless of either perspective, there is still just a half filled glass in front of us.  Folks like Kim Caudill look at the glass and skip the half empty/half full question.  Instead they decide there is room for more, then set out to fill the glass to the rim.

Kim grew up a Louisburg, NC, a small town about an hour northeast of Raleigh.  She still carries a hint of an accent that is unique to those counties along the Virginia/North Carolina line in the Roanoke River Basin.  Her family was in the interior decorating business and often vacationed in the mountains.  Kim went on to graduate from Louisburg College and then Atlantic Christian College, now known as Barton College.  Marriage followed then a son.  She went back to graduate school at East Carolina University, balancing family and work responsibilities with night and weekend classes.

Her family settled in to a down east county and made their home in the community of Beautancus.  She taught school at the elementary level and they raised their son.  Then part of the fluid left her glass.

Faced with a divorce and her son joining the military, Kim was challenged by a new life and whether to frame this change as a problem or opportunity.  She opted for “opportunity” and contacted the  Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA).  One of DoDEA’s functions is to furnish teachers to military service members around the world.  Kim applied and was accepted for service.  She soon found herself in Germany.

ausfahrt-s-300x220Being tossed into a new culture again generated the problem/opportunity dilemma.  Of course language was an issue.  Kim noticed that as they traveled the autobahn there was a blue sign with an arrow that pointed to “Ausfahrt.”  Kim remarked to her driver that the best she could tell, just about every exit off the autobahn led to Ausfahrt.  The driver explained to Kim that “Ausfahrt” was German for “exit.”  Kim realized quickly that part of filling her glass was to learn the basics of German.

Kim spent six years in Germany.  She enjoyed the ease of travel between the European countries.  She tells of driving trips to France and pottery shopping in Poland and a spring break in Greece.  Trips home to North Carolina were worked around the school calendar, with most trips falling on her summer or Christmas breaks.

After six years Kim returned to the United States and recalled those childhood trips to the North Carolina mountains.  She settled for a while in Ashe County, and taught school near Galax, Virginia and Moravian Falls, NC.  When a teaching job came open at Glade Creek Elementary, she moved to Alleghany County.  Along the way she married Laurel Springs resident, Bill Caudill.  After nine years at Glade Creek, she recently retired from teaching after almost 30 years in the classroom.

SRC Main Street Coordinator Kim Caudill

SRC Main Street Coordinator
Kim Caudill

Retirement brought Kim another opportunity.  Once again she topped off her glass, this time by being named Main Street Coordinator with the Sparta Revitalization Committee.  An admitted extrovert, Kim looks forward to meeting the Main Street merchants and working to promote activities in and around Sparta.

Some view Sparta and Alleghany County’s cups as half empty and others as half full.  If her actions in the past are indicative of her future initiative, Kim Caudill will work to fill those cups to overflowing.

Novelist Sharyn McCrumb

mccrumb 001The Grassroots Arts Project welcomes awarding winning novelist Sharyn McCrumb to Sparta on Thursday, June 18th for two appearances.  The Alleghany County Library will host a reception and book signing at 1:00 pm at the library.  At 7:00 pm, Ms. McCrumb will offer a presentation on Appalachian culture at the Alleghany Campus of Wilkes Community College located at 115 Atwood Street, Sparta.  Alleghany JAM with kick off the program with a musical performance from 6:30 – 7:00 pm.

Ms. McCrumbs recent historic novel, Kings Mountain, tells the story of the Overmountain Men and their victory over British loyalists at American Revolution’s Battle of Kings Mountain.

For more information contact 336-372-5573 or grassrootspromo@gmail.com

This presentation is funded by the Grassroots Arts Project of the Arts Guild and supported by the North Carolina Arts Council.

Summer Jamboree – The Crooked Road Ramblers

Alleghany County has a rich tradition of old-time and bluegrass music.  The music is more shared than performed with an unspoken expectation that audiences are active participants.  Whether the audience dances, claps or simply pats their feet, everyone take a role.

This Saturday night, June 20th at 5:00 pm, The Crooked Road Ramblers will take the stage at Crouse Park in Sparta, NC.  This event is part of the Summer Jamboree.  These are family friendly events where neighbors spend time with neighbors and visitors are treated neighborly.

The Crooked Road Ramblers are one of the region’s premier old-time bands.  Kilby Spencer furnishes a driving fiddle that is played in the tradition of Thornton Spencer and Albert Hash .  Last year the Ramblers garnered 1st place titles at the Ashe County and Fries Fiddlers Conventions.  They came in 2nd in Alleghany County and Galax.

Their competitive success is overshadowed by their pure passion for music.  While they may call some of the outlying areas of Grayson and Ashe Counties home, the Crooked Road Ramblers will bring a spirit to Sparta this Saturday that is Absolutely Alleghany.

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For more information on summertime events in Alleghany County visit the Chamber of Commerce’s events calendar here or call 800-472-5473

The Symphony Committee of Alleghany County

Culture is a term that is sometimes difficult to define.  A dictionary definition would focus on the collective beliefs, customs, and arts of a particular group of people.  A more layman definition is “the way we do things – most of the time.”

In Alleghany County, the arts culture stretches along a lengthy continuum.  Locally raised country music star Del Reeves and Bill Monroe’s fiddler, Art Wooten, anchor spots along that continuum.  A variety of old-time and bluegrass musicians are scattered up and down that line.  Visual artists craft beautiful pottery, baskets, quilts, paintings and stained glass panels.  Writers and poets craft prose that stirs our imaginations.  Local farmers add to the arts culture with symmetrical rows of Christmas trees, fields of pumpkins, and acres of rolling pastureland.

Reflective of that arts culture is an overall way of life that is self-reliant and self-sufficient.  Yet, we understand the necessity and value in coming together to accomplish things that can’t be accomplished alone.  On the surface it seems to be an odd mixture of independence and interdependence.  But, in fact, the mixture makes perfect sense.

A group of diverse, county women are working together to bring the symphony to Alleghany County.  Suzanne Mellow-Irwin, Rita Woodruff, Frances Huber, and Una Lindh have deep roots in the community and a strong desire to deepen the arts culture of the county.

Rita Woodruff, Una Lindh and Frances Huber

Rita Woodruff, Una Lindh and Frances Huber

This isn’t a new idea.  Some 60 plus years ago, Gene and Margaret Motsinger brought the North Carolina Symphony to Sparta.  Before settling in Alleghany permanently, France Huber recalls being invited to the symphony by the Motsingers in 1994.  When she returned to Atlanta, her city friend asked what exactly she did when in Alleghany County.  Conscious of the subtle accusation, Frances answered rather smugly, “I attended the symphony.”

Native residents recall the buildup during their school days leading up to the symphony’s arrival in town.  They listened to recordings and learned about the various instruments.  They remember a presentation in which a group of children sang along with the performance.

But somewhere along the way, the symphony stopped coming to Sparta.  Three years ago, this dedicated group of women decided it was time to bring classical music back up the mountain.  With the help of Charlie Scott of Alleghany Community Television, the group was put in touch with Western Piedmont Symphony.  Based in Hickory, NC, the company has brought their musical talents to Sparta for the past two years.

The mission of this endeavor is very much the same as when the Motsingers began this journey years ago: to expose school aged children to the symphony (grades 3-8 will experience a special afternoon concert); to reinforce the love of all music throughout the community; and to generate broad appeal for all artistic mediums.

It has been said that music bridges perceived gaps that separate individuals and brings people together.  Classical cellist Yo Yo Ma, bassist Edgar Meyer and bluegrass fiddler Mark O’Conner teamed together to blend classical and traditional mountain music, exhibiting how the two genres aren’t so far apart.

Here in Sparta, this group has set out to do the same.  Their desire is to see a full house of happy people leave the concert eager to experience the vast array of Alleghany culture -the way we do things around here (at least most of the time).  Taken collectively, it is all Absolutely Alleghany.

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Save the Date:

The Western Piedmont Symphony will perform at the Alleghany Community Auditorium on August 27, 2015.  The pubic performance begins at 7:00 pm. Seating is priced from $20.00 to a very affordable $5.00.

For information about helping sponsor this event, contact Suzanne Mellow-Irwin, Chair of the Friends of the Alleghany Community Auditorium at 336-472-4401.

John Davis – Hunters Helping Kids: Blue Ridge Chapter

We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children’s memories, the adventures we’ve had together in nature will always exist.”

Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder

It is easy to complain.  We all have a tendency to fall in to the “should” trap, especially when it comes to kids.

“Kids should turn off the TV and go play outside.”

“Kids should learn to respect nature.”

On and on it goes.  Should traps.

hunters helping

Locally, the 13 member Hunters Helping Kids – Blue Ridge Chapter aren’t falling into those traps.  They have committed to exposing kids and their parents to the natural beauty of Alleghany and surrounding counties. While hunting and fishing may seem to be the chapter’s focus, John Davis, points out that just getting kids outdoors where they can learn to appreciate nature is their primary motivation.

John Davis

John Davis

John considers himself fortunate to have grown up in Alleghany County and to have had someone who taught him to hunt and fish.  Because of that he feels an obligation to pass his passion for the outdoors on to the next generation of sportsmen.

In addition to being president of the local chapter, John serves on the national board of directors for Hunters Helping Kids.  His national position led to Alleghany County hosting the Ultimate Kids Hunt.  This hunt is open to five boys and five girls between the ages of 10 and 15.  In addition, at least one special needs child is selected.  The young hunters are given a rifle, camouflage clothing, boots and other accessories.  They must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.  The Alleghany Inn supports the hunt and assists with housing the hunters and their parents.  Kids from across the eastern United States have attended this hunt.

John points out that the local chapter has one fundraiser, a banquet, each year.  Each local chapter of Hunters Helping Kids keeps at least 50% of their funds to use for local projects (the other 50% covers insurance and administrative expenses).  The Blue Ridge Chapter has used their funds to buy youth bows and targets to introduce kids to archery, sponsored two $1000 scholarships to a male and female Alleghany High School student, supported a youth hunt for Alleghany County kids, and will offer an all-girls hunt this fall in neighboring Ashe County.

On June 11, 2016 from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm, the Blue Ridge Chapter will host a free fishing event behind the Cherry Lane Community building on Hwy 21 South.  The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) will stock trout in Brush Creek for this event.  The NCWRC has also waived license requirements for adults who are assisting the kids.  In addition to fishing, the event will include a mobile pellet rifle range supervised by local wildlife officers and the archery equipment purchased with banquet funds.  A drawing for a lifetime hunting and fishing license will be held for the participating kids.  Last year, 65 young anglers participated and there is hope for an even higher number this year.  This one of 35 similar events held across North Carolina as part of National Fishing and Boating Week.

Some question exposing kids to hunting and fishing.  John has been asked that question many times.  He views it as an opportunity to explain the role of hunting and fishing in the conservation of wildlife resources, and to describe how hunters and anglers were the first wildlife conservationists.  Most importantly, the chapter members are well aware that there is more to fishing than catching fish. Luther Standing Bear (1868-1939) may have summed it up best when he said, “Man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; [the Lakota] knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too.”

On June 11th, a group of Alleghany County conservationists will set out to soften kids’ hearts and deepen their respect for the natural world. They encourage anyone with children to bring them to this event.

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For more information contact:

John Davis      336-657-0801

Sebrina Davis 336-657-7137

Ricky Higgins 276-233-5359