I read a really great article in the CSM on the train this morning, talking about the way Appalachia is hoping to reinvent itself as a tourist getaway for those who like folk music. Given how effective it is in other settings (Western Ireland, Eastern Canada, Bretagne in France, etc.) I think it's a brilliant solution.

For those who don't know, Appalachia, in the Eastern United States, used to be heavily involved with the coal industry. Now that coal is more or less defunct, their fortunes have suffered dramatically. According to the US census, a 2 person family in West Virginia (which is often used as a shorthand for the Appalachian region) would have a median income of $33,454. This is the lowest in the nation, and is $12,000 less than the national median.

My parents used to take me to bluegrass festivals, and although at the time I complained, I have since gained an appreciation for the music, and the culture - one of those things I consider truly 'American'. Although, as the article notes, an influx of tourism might take away some of the genuineness of the music, I don't think it will do too much harm - the people who play are there because of the music, and if the tourists come, they'll be there for the music too.

sasha commented:
I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia, and my parents recently moved back there. Last time I went to visit them, my mom took me up to Floyd for lunch. I had a shockingly good bean burrito in a little cafe with mismatched chairs and a guy playing piano in the corner. After driving through the mountains, past the abandoned shacks I recognized from my childhood, it was kind of bizarre, but nice. It's funny to think about these places as tourist draws, with people looking for "authenticity", and worrying that the tourist professionals will "ruin" the experience. Appalachia has had a mystique of authenticity and lack of change for a very long time - someone once posited the theory that the Appalachian accent retained Elizabethan English pronunciation. My fear is that it is this myth of immutability that will cause problems - the more people are seeking the "authentic" and "unchanged" Appalachia, the less real the experience will become, rather like the tweeness of an "English country village".
on Fri Jun 24 09:09:37 2005

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