Appalachian Summer Solstice Celebrates Appalachian Heritage< < Back to
POMEROY, Ohio (WOUB) – This year’s celebration of the Appalachian Summer Solstice at Wisteria Event Site and Campground gave people the opportunity to take a short vacation from the hustle and bustle of life and return to their roots in nature.
The four-day-long celebration featured nightly fires, live music, camping, and local food. But more than anything, it was a celebration of Appalachian identity.
“This is a sanctuary for people,” Pam Cooper, one of the owners and operators of Wisteria, said. “A safe space where you can be yourself and you don’t have to worry about all the, what we call ‘mundane,’ issues. You can come here and relax.”
Wisteria holds annual events, like the Appalachian Summer Solstice, Barleycorn, a celebration of the fall harvest, and the Fall Equinox, a celebration of the sun crossing the celestial equator.
It serves as a sanctuary for the people who run the property, which is cooperatively owned and sustainably operated. Some of the owners, like Cooper, live on the property.
The land is made up of a reclaimed strip mine, and after years of work by Cooper and the other owners, native animals are slowly returning to the land. Healing and reclaiming the land was a founding goal for Wisteria, along with creating a place for people in the region to gather and connect with nature.
For a multitude of reasons, the theme of this year’s celebration was Appalachian Resilience.
“For us, the Appalachian way is resilient,” Cooper said. “You meet your trials head on, you come up with solutions, and you just keep plugging through. And we have done that over the years in our campground and our corporation. This year, one of our things is (after) having to go through COVID and all the restrictions. It’s like you made it through. We’re resilient. People are resilient. We can survive.”
This region of Appalachia has faced many issues in recent years, including the drug epidemic and income inequality. H. Byron Ballard, an Appalachian author and this year’s keynote speaker, discussed some of the issues and her thoughts on how to change things.
“We have to build back for Appalachian people with pride in being Appalachian,” Ballard said. “That’s one of the things that has been extracted from the region. And once we can start to do that, then we’re going to be addressing broader, much broader, issues.”
Ballard said she believes Appalachians have changed in spirit over the years and are not as resilient as they used to be.
“Appalachians have to have as much soul about themselves and as much backbone as their ancestors did.”
Though much has been stripped away, like natural resources, Ballard still sees a future where the people of Appalachia can come together and focus on issues that so heavily affect the region.
“Nobody from the outside is going to fix this, because nobody from the outside likes us,” Ballard said. “So if we’re gonna get it done, we’re gonna do it. Nobody else.”
Healing the land, Ballard said, plays a part in healing the region.
The summer solstice celebration also provides a place for people to gather together and begin that process.
It provides locals with a place to see friends and celebrate the region’s natural splendor..
Barbara Harrison chose to make Appalachia her home decades ago, and feels a very deep connection with the land. The connection brings her back to Wisteria every year since the early 2000s.
“This is a great place for folks that like to camp and be in community to come, because we’ll not only be spending time away from our bubbles, and especially our screens,” Harrison said. “And really thinking about our resources and assets Appalachia has.”
However, Harrison’s favorite part of the celebration is being together with friends.
“I am so lucky to have them in my life, as well as some of the folks involved and then to meet new friends,” Harrison said. “That’s really what it’s about.”