The Blue Ridge Folklife Festival in Ferrum

Some of the prettiest pictures I have of Virginia in the fall are from the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival in Ferrum, Virginia.

These are photos that I took last year when the leaves were at their peak.  They are a little bit behind schedule this year and I’m afraid that I’ll miss this year’s festival so it’s been on my mind the last couple of days.  

Draft Horses and Sheep Herding Competitions

We attend a lot of festivals and last year was also our first year for the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival.  We had no idea how huge it is.  There are easily thousands of attendees and the festival stretches over acres and acres with farm equipment displays, hunting dog contests, draft horse contests, lifestyles exhibits (like making molasses or preparing meat),  lots and lots of food, live music, story-telling, and the biggest classic car show I’ve ever seen.

Crowds in the Farm Equipment Display Area

They closest thing that I compare it to is the Texas State Fair (in Dallas) without all the buildings.  There are so many people. There is so much to see.  The demos here are not provided by actors or salesmen.  These are real people.  That was the thing that I came away with from last year’s festival – this is real.

A Blacksmithing Demo Attracting a Crowd

If you are a citified urban dweller for whom food magically appears in the supermarket wrapped in cellophane – and I didn’t fully realize that that was me until this festival – I can almost guarantee that you will come away with a lot food for thought.  The first thing the we came across was a coon dog competition that was underway.  You may be comforted to know that the raccoon tail in the photo below is not attached to a terrified raccoon.  However, it did not look like a plush toy either. I hope I’m wrong , but I doubt it. Like I said, this is real life. You simply don’t get more real than this.

Coon Dog Competition

These are real hunting dogs that have been trained to do a real job and they are good at it.  While I am not a hunter and don’t have the same appreciation for the event that a hunter would, I can take a look at the hills around here and appreciate what it would take to live off of this land and I’m happy that the skills are being kept alive (and pray that they are never truly needed as they once were).  When I lay in bed at night and hear fox and coyote and think of my chickens, I am also thankful that I regularly hear these dogs out hunting on early mornings.

If you are not a hunter either, it is easy to avoid the coon dog competition and there is much, much more to see.  There is a food tent city just as you enter the festival and then you come out into an area of farm equipment, new and old, and a live demo of the steam-powered Peerless tractor running a conveyor system for baling hay.

A Demo of the Peerless Steam Tractor Baling Hay

There were a lot of moving parts and it looked like dangerous work.

Part of the Peerless Steam Tractor Demo

If you don’t find tractors sexy, there is still lots to do.  You can move from the equipment exhibits to the Farm Exhibit across the street. As I understand it, the farm here, which includes livestock, is part of the Blue Ridge Institute & Farm Museum.

Past the Pink Tractor is the Exit to the Farm

I don’t know if the placement of the exhibits shifts from year to year but, in 2015, the farm side of the festival had the lion’s share of the live entertainment for us.  This is where you’ll find all the fresh jams and jellies. They were busy making blackstrap molasses in a huge cast iron pot just behind a live entertainment tent.  It looks like they have some fantastic entertainment set up for this year so I am especially sorry that I don’t think I’m going to make it.

Live Entertainment

This is also where they have the draft horse competitions and I’ve seen some absolutely stunning photographs taken at these events.  If you want to see some great photos, check out @blueridgeinstitute on Instagram and then check out the photos tagged #blueridgefolklifefestival.  I love the draft horse pictures posted last year.

Two Kids in the Loft, Two Cows in the Yard, Stunning Fall Colors Behind

It is simply gorgeous.

The Blue Ridge Folklife Festival is Gorgeous

My intention was to get some photos of the draft horses but we were also planning to head up the Parkway on the same day to look at leaves so that is still on my bucket list.  So is coming back up to see the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum.  The exhibits on forgotten canneries looks interesting.

Sign for Blue Ridge Institute & Museum

We crossed the road again and wandered into the largest classic and custom car show I’ve ever seen.  I’ve already blogged about this particular car show before but it is worth another mention. It’s just so big.

This is One of My Favorite Shots
Ford 1913
A Heavily Customized Hot Rod
1957 Lincoln

Truly, it is worth going just for the car show.  But, if I can’t make it this year, I sincerely hope that I convince someone else to go.  I don’t know why. It just seems like good karma, I guess.  I hear that the leaves are still a little behind but we are having a cold snap starting this Friday and maybe that will egg them on.

If it helps sway you, the Blue Ridge Parkway is about thirty minutes from the Festival, up State Route 602.  I have no idea how the leaves are looking there but I’m hearing encouraging words from Poor Farmers’ Market in Meadows of Dan.

View of Buffalo Mountain on the Parkway Last Year

Mother wants to see some real fall foliage. Where are you seeing it?


Author: Beth Barton

I like to joke that I am a Texan living abroad. My husband is a Mainer and we chose to live in Henry County, Virgina because of its abundant natural beauty, temperate climate, and slow pace of life. We love small town America, the outdoors, cats, and chickens. I keep hoping to someday discover my inner artist but have so far only excelled at purchasing supplies. I am an accountant at heart. Sad, but true.

4 thoughts on “The Blue Ridge Folklife Festival in Ferrum”

    1. Thanks! I want to take my mom because I think that she’ll love it. She had some cattle back in Texas and I think she’d be really impressed by the exhibits. This year was all about leaves though. Next year, I want to camp out by the draft horses and get some shots like the ones I’ve seen on Instagram.


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