BY ERICA LeBORGNE
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Eighteen years ago, Terry Ratliff was a disillusioned mental-health worker in Indiana. Leaving his office, starched shirts and ties behind, he moved back home to Flynt County, Ky., wondering what he was going to do.
On Saturday, Mr. Ratliff was at the 29th annual Appalachian Festival at Coney Island, celebrating his Appalachian heritage and enjoying his new profession: chair making. Dressed in a T-shirt, blue jeans and work boots, this son and grandson of coal miners could not have looked more at home.
As people stopped to watch, Mr. Ratliff sat working on a wooden shaving horse similar to those used in the 14th century. He explained how furniture was made before "the machine age messed everything up."
The simple things in life brought an estimated 30,000 people to the festival Saturday. Handmade crafts from about 150 exhibitions, the high-stepping bluegrass music of Appalachia and old-fashioned home cooking such as roasted corn on the cob and apple butter were included in the fun.
"There are three main reasons we hold the festival," said Debbie Bays, a member of the Appalachian Community Development Association, which organizes the festival. "To celebrate the culture and share it with the community, to educate young Appalachians about their, culture and to teach Greater Cincinnati exactly what is the Appalachian culture."
The association puts proceeds from the event into grants to help schools, community centers and artist studios throughout Greater Cincinnati that are based in largely Appalachian areas. According to Ms. Bays, 30 percent of Cincinnati residents have Appalachian roots. There was a consensus among the people in attendance that the Appalachian culture needed to be celebrated and taught in schools just like any other.
"There was a lot of people who traveled through the South and saw shacks with a washing machine on the front porch," said Glenn Kendall of Anderson Township. "They got the idea the people must be ignorant. That's what I thought until I married one."
"Really they're not (ignorant)," said Juanita Kendall, Glenn's wife. "There are some Appalachians who were very poor, but it was their way of life."
"You don't want to forget your Appalachian background," Mrs. Kendall said. "It was a very special time and a very special people." The festival continues 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today with blind singer - guitarist Arthel "Doc" Watson performing at 2 p.m. Tickets, $12, are available at the gate.