Students walking down Pedestrian Walkway on Monday had the opportunity to experience local background music.
The UT Appalachian Heritage Festival featured student and local musicians playing music native to the region. Throughout the morning, banjos, fiddles and other acoustic instruments could be heard picking out classic bluegrass tunes. In addition, UT hosted a National Symposium on Multicultural Music, which added to the soundtrack of the students' walk to class.
"The Appalachian Heritage Fest is a celebration of the art of the region, so we have music, we have craft fairs, storytellers," said Heather Floden, general books manager at the UT Bookstore and creator of the festival.
"I moved here a few years ago, and kind of fell in love with the history of the area, and learned that there isn't really a class on campus (on it)," Floden said. "I thought I'd get something started."
This is the third year for the festival, expanding this year from one day to both Monday and Tuesday. Monday included mainly music and storytellers throughout the day, as vendors were hesitant to come out in the rain. Today, however, Pedestrian Walkway should be lined with local craft vendors and merchants, offering students everything from homemade candles to handcrafted jewelry.
"I think it's great they have music going on around campus," said Robert Dillingham, sophomore in business administration and musician who stopped by on his way to class to "check out some bluegrass." He paused under a tree to avoid the rain, enjoying a local quartet's rendition of the classic folk song "I've Been All Around This World."
In the gloomy October weather, the music seemed to brighten students' moods. Students hurrying to class smiled as they walked by under their umbrellas and raincoats. Several stopped to listen in breaks between or after class, and were hesitant to leave.
"I love to see people stopping and chilling, even in the rain," Dillingham said. "It's really nice."
Sean McCollough, who teaches musicology classes on Appalachian Music and History of Rock, was also on Pedestrian Walkway to enjoy the music and support a past student who was playing banjo in the festival. He commented that most students don't make the connection between the university and Appalachia.
"I guess because it's (in) a city and we often associate rural areas with Appalachia, but honestly we're right smack dab in the middle of Appalachia," McCollough remarked. "We're the largest university in the southern Appalachian mountains, so I personally think it's important to celebrate the culture of the area."
Floden agreed, observing that a lot of people do not know the history of the region. The festival offers a way for people to stop and learn.
"We get a lot of questions at the festival," Floden said.
Bundled up against the cold and rain yesterday, Floden was excited about today's phase, which includes plenty of craft vendors and a favorable weather forecast.