The Dan River Basin is rich with folk heritage.
At the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the western side of the region, the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum was created by the adjoining Ferrum College in 1973 to celebrate that heritage. Today, the institute is a major venue on the Crooked Road, Virginia’s music heritage trail. It’s home to a farm museum and gallery with rotating exhibits.
The Blue Ridge Folklife Festival
Perhaps the best time to visit the Blue Ridge Institute is next Saturday, Oct. 27, when it will host the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival.
For 45 years on the fourth Saturday of October, the Folklife Festival has brought together musicians, moonshiners, craftspeople, cooks, motorheads, mule jumpers, horse pullers, coon dog racers, antique tractor buffs, and old-time gamers for a celebration of the rich heritage and traditions of the region.
This is the real deal, folks. It’s a thoroughly authentic reflection of life in eastern Appalachia and the largest regional event of its kind in Virginia. Multiple stages host a broad variety of roots music. Horses, mules, dogs, and livestock are on display in different venues, with contests that include mule jumping, ox driving, horse pulling, sheep herding, coon dog treeing and open-water racing, and more. See a moonshine still and learn about distilling. Buy local produce at the farm market. Check out antique tractors and classic cars. Gaze at handwoven quilts. And that’s just a partial list.
For a schedule of events, check out the Folklife Festival’s website.
Blue Ridge Farm Museum
Even if you visit on a different day, the Blue Ridge Institute offers plenty to do. Its Blue Ridge Farm Museum offers an immersive experience of life on a farm circa 1800. Costumed interpreters demonstrate a host of household and farm chores, including preparing meals over the open hearth, driving oxen, blacksmithing, and tending heirloom gardens and historic breeds of animals. Specialized tours are available for groups, as well.
Additionally, the institute has two galleries with rotating exhibits. Currently, the galleries include Crooked Road Royalty and Crooked Road Musical Styles—which spotlights highlights the careers of the Hill Billies, the Stoneman Family, the Carter Family, and the Stanley Brothers, four western Virginia powerhouse groups that helped build the American country music industry—and Helping Hands: Shared Work & Craft Skills, an exhibit built around the shared rural work experience with more than 70 vintage images from the darkroom of western Virginia photographer Earl Palmer.
Other Trips to the Dan River Area
Looking for more in the Dan River area? Check out some of these other trip ideas, which can be paired with a visit to the Blue Ridge Institute or experienced on their own:
– Explore 25 miles of waterway on the Philpott Lake Blueway, not far from Ferrum.
– 6 mountain-biking destinations, including DeHart Park, between Ferrum and Woolwine.