Maryland Traditions Folklife Area
2018 Maryland Traditions Folklife Area Theme:
Maryland Folklife Area & Stage
Presented in partnership with Maryland Traditions, the folklife program of the Maryland State Arts Council.
The Maryland Traditions Folklife Area & Stage celebrate and showcase the rich, living traditions of Maryland—from its Atlantic beaches to the Appalachian Mountains. With a different theme each year, the Folklife Area will shine the spotlight on the distinctive music, rituals, crafts, occupations, foodways, and other traditions at the heart of Maryland heritage, expressing both the state’s deep history and its evolving character.
Performances, demonstrations, displays, exhibits, and narrative presentations by Maryland master artisans and performers will explore a wide range of topics, including the traditions of its First Peoples, the cultural legacies of early settlers, and the expressions of the newest Maryland residents whose cultural roots are in far-flung places around the globe.
At the 78th National Folk Festival, Chesapeake Traditions, a special program curated by Maryland Traditions, the state folklife program, and the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University, explores the rich traditions that have flourished in maritime, marsh, and agricultural communities for generations.
The Chesapeake Bay has a rich cultural history that stretches back centuries. Its maritime bounty has sustained inhabitants on the Eastern Shore and surrounding regions, forming the texture of peoples, industries, and traditions. From the emphasis on waterways and their methods of traversal to the bay’s fishery and fertile agricultural lands, Delmarva communities have been shaped by and are shapers of this unique landscape. Dugout canoes, skipjacks, crab pots, combines, muskrats, oysters, watermelon, Smith Island cake, chicken, scrapple—these are but a few of the Chesapeake’s defining symbols. All support varied cultural communities and families on both sides of the bay. Delmarva and the Chesapeake are unique for any number of reasons; one of the most important is the prominence of occupational culture and the intrinsic ways work, from subsistence harvesting to packing houses, is connected to traditional lifeways. Chesapeake Traditions are largely defined by the work residents do, which taken together forms the overall character of the Chesapeake and its people.
Crab picking, oyster shucking, and Smith Island cake baking demonstrations will illustrate Chesapeake foodways, while master shipwrights and decoy carvers will showcase their woodworking talents, and members of indigenous communities will highlight the crucial relationship of land and water in the region.
Working on the Water
The maritime industry is one of the Chesapeake’s primary occupational traditions. It has long dominated the area’s economics and culture. While the Chesapeake has a diverse and strong fishery, the oystering and crabbing industries stand apart as iconic. The skipjack occupies a similar place in the imagery of the Chesapeake. As the last working boats under sail in the United States, the skipjack is at the forefront of how Maryland portrays itself, recognizing it as the official state boat. Water is central to the region’s cultural landscapes, character, and sense of self. Place names are illustrative: Wicomico derives from a phrase that means “a place where houses are built,” a reference to river banks, while Chesapeake is thought to mean “great shellfish bay.” Working on the water is not just a livelihood for residents of the Chesapeake; it is a way of life that is embedded in the region’s communities and peoples
While the Chesapeake is known for its seafood, the place of agriculture is just as profound. From the colonial era forward, agriculture has been an important economic engine and foundation for the cultures and lifeways of the region. The Nause-Waiwash tribe, who lived in the Vienna area, farmed extensively; their farms provide compelling evidence that agriculture has always been a predominant feature of life in the Chesapeake. Delmarva today contains a wide range of produce and livestock. The chicken houses that dot the countryside are intertwined with the variety of grains grown by area farmers, which provides sustenance for one of the region’s main exports. Large-scale and small-scale, family owned and industrial, backyard or community—the fertile soil of Delmarva is utilized in a vast array of agricultural production.
On the Eastern Shore, the marsh is ever-present. It is a place from which people have drawn their livelihoods for centuries, and a key part of the Chesapeake’s cultural landscapes. The low-lying floodplain and nutrient-rich land make for fantastic farming and agriculture, but it is bounded by and inundated with water. Both fresh and salt marshes dominate the terrain, and factor heavily into the region’s traditional lifeways. Hunting and trapping are significant traditions and methods of subsistence for residents. Hunters take waterfowl from the marshes, while wildlife like muskrats have long been embedded in the region’s foodways and culture. Similarly, work and life are centered on the marsh. This direct connection has led to a strong knowledge of the impact that rising sea levels and climate change are having on the environment.
Maryland Traditions Apprenticeship Award
The Maryland Traditions Apprenticeship Awards, part of the Maryland State Arts Council, support one-year periods of study between master folklife practitioners and apprentices in order to support the traditional arts and practices of Maryland. Apprenticeships can include a variety of art forms and practices, from dance and music to crafts, food, and occupational traditions. These partnerships are intended to support the traditional transmission of knowledge through one-on-one relationships that subsequently bring those practices to the public through demonstrations and performances. Enjoy performances and demonstrations from this year’s apprenticeship teams throughout the Maryland Traditions Folklife Area & Stage on Sunday, September 9.