Natural Tunnel gearing up for Papa Joe Smiddy festival

Nick Shepherd • Aug 24, 2017 at 9:30 PM

DUFFIELD — For the last 14 years, people have gathered together in Duffield to honor the memory and legacy of Dr. Joseph “Papa Joe” Smiddy. Smiddy was an accomplished old-time banjo player, entertainer and educator who worked tirelessly to promote the music of Appalachia.

The festival is an official event of Duffield Daze and an affiliated site on the Crooked Road, Virginia’s Music Heritage Trail. 

When and where will it take place?

The 15th annual Papa Joe Smiddy Music Festival will be held at Natural Tunnel State Park on Sept. 3. It is presented by the Cove Ridge Center Foundation.

What time does the music start?

Music will begin at 3 p.m. with a special performance featuring the Miss Ellie String Band. There will be a dinner break at 5 p.m., and then the evening music will resume at 6 p.m. Radio personality Tom Taylor will serve as emcee.

Who is performing?

The Miss Ellie String Band, which was named in honor of Sue Ella Boatwright-Wells. Dr. Joe Smiddy & Reedy Creek, who have played together for more than four decades. The East Tennessee State University Bluegrass and Old Time Pride Bands, which feature students in the school’s Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Studies program. Carson Peters & Iron Mountain who perform old-time, bluegrass and gospel music.

Who was Papa Joe?

In addition to being an accomplished banjo player, Smiddy was the chancellor emeritus at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. He also promoted the music of the region for many decades.

What should we bring if we attend the festival?

Festival goers are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or blanket. People may also bring food and drinks, but no alcohol is allowed on the property of Natural Tunnel State Park.

What is the cost?

General admission tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the gate. Children 12 and under are free. Tickets can be purchased by phone by calling (276) 940-2674. They are also available at Natural Tunnel State Park, the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce and Addington Oil in Weber City. All proceeds will go to the Cove Ridge Foundation’s Papa Joe Smiddy Scholarship Fund.