Sweet treats for the ears at the Highland Center during Maple Festival
Maple donuts, maple candy and of course local Highland County maple syrup on pancakes – there are plenty of sweet treats to be found at the annual Highland County Maple Festival. But the Highland Center in Monterey will also offer some sweet treats for your ears with their entertainment lineup for the two weekends of the annual festival. Clair Myers with the Highland County Arts Council gives us a peek at the musical delights in store at the Highland Center on the Saturdays of the Maple Festival.
“For the Maple Festival we’ve engaged two performances,” said Clair. “The first one which is the first weekend is by a man by the name of Tyler Hughes. He plays more traditional music and has storytelling and does a little flatfoot dancing. It’s a real glimpse of Appalachian life.”
“And then the second weekend we have a really internationally known guitar builder and performer by the name of Wayne Henderson. With him will be Helen White who is a fiddler and singer at times and also a composer. The two of them present a really wonderful performance.”
I had a chance to speak with Tyler Hughes, who will perform at the Highland Center on March 9th at 3pm. Tyler is from Big Stone Gap, VA and old time music and dance is deeply ingrained in his soul.
“I’ve been playing banjo for about 11 or 12 years and studying the regions music,” said Tyler. “I also work real closely to study the regions dance traditions; studied flatfooting and do square dance calling. That’s what I spend most of my time doing is playing banjo and calling square dances around the Appalachia region.”
Tyler is on the Virginia Commission for the Arts touring roster as a representative of the southwestern region of Virginia. That’s how he made the connection with the Highland Arts Council and the invitation to come to Highland County. He explains what draws him to Appalachian culture.
“Well, I have always been interested in history, when I was in school that was always one of my favorite subjects,” he said. “Growing up my mother always really instilled a sense of pride over local history for me and my brothers. Of course living in the Appalachian region you’re just surrounded by rich cultural assets like musicians just about everywhere you turn”
“I ended up going to college at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee and got my Bachelors degree in Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music studies.”
After graduation he came back to southwest Virginia, but has also traveled around the world sharing Appalachian music and culture, while also learning from other cultures. In addition to music, Tyler will also be sharing his love of Appalachian dance.
“I’ve studied traditional flatfooting and basic clogging that can be found around the Appalachian region,” said Tyler. “I think it’s just such an integral part of the music; this music was made for community gathering and part of that was getting up and dancing and still using it as a way to express yourself. Also it makes for good exercise too! I always encourage folks to get up and dance when they come to a show.”
When he’s not playing music, he’s teaching music at Mountain Empire Community College, selling real estate part time and also serving on the local city council. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Crooked Road music trail in southwest Virginia.
Tyler will be performing at the Highland Center in Monterey on Saturday March 9th at 3pm. There is a $10.00 fee for the performance. Southern Rail Express will be performing at 11am on the 9th as well – admission for that show is $3.00 or by Maple Festival keychain.
On Saturday, March 16th, the Little Switzerland Cloggers will be at the Highland Center at 1pm and Wayne Henderson and Helen White will perform at 3pm. For more information, please visit the Highland County Chamber of Commerce website at highlandcounty.org.