Stephenson Center for Appalachia shines spotlight on Appalachian storytelling tradition and Blue Ridge ecology in back-to-back October events

Join the Stephenson Center for two October events focusing on the unique cultural and environmental landscape of the Southern Appalachian region.  

On Monday, Oct. 30 at 6 p.m., Terry Shaw and Brad Lifford of Howling Hills Publishing will set the stage for Halloween with readings from their recent anthology, “23 Tales: Appalachian Ghost Stories, Legends, and Other Mysteries.” The collection features nonfiction stories from 23 Appalachian writers on the themes of paranormal experiences, local legends, and historical mysteries.  

The event will be held in Miller Commons on Lees-McRae campus and will feature readings by Shaw and Lifford and the winners of the Lees-McRae English Department Ghost Story Contest. Ghost stories and other folk tales are central to Appalachian culture, as the deep woods and isolated hollers of the Appalachian Mountains naturally lend themselves to thoughts of hauntings and things that go bump in the night. Both “23 Tales” and the student ghost stories build on this long tradition.  

“The stories in ‘23 Tales: Appalachian Ghost Stories, Legends, and Other Mysteries’ represent the narrative folklore traditions across the Appalachian region—from Pennsylvania to Georgia and in between,” Director of the Stephenson Center Catherine Pritchard Childress said. “Appalachia is fortunate to have publishers, editors, and writers like Shaw and Lifford who continue to celebrate these long-held traditions, and our community is fortunate to have them share these stories with us.”  

On Tuesday, Oct. 31 at 12:30 p.m., Assistant Dean of Natural and Health Sciences Shinjini Goswami and Wildlife Biology major Alex Trifunovic will present “Is it just the bees?” in Evans Auditorium. Since Fall 2022, Goswami and Trifunovic have been undertaking an extensive research project to track plant and insect diversity in the Elk Valley Preserve and at South Campus. Their presentation will discuss their findings and explain why protecting pollinators in the Blue Ridge ecoregion is so important.  

“Southern Appalachia has one of the highest bee diversities in the entire country, but it also has one of the highest uncertainties. Here we have a very patchy, variable habitat from area to area, and across the region, so getting a better look at the fine scale, local bee abundance is going to be important,” Trifunovic said. “Is this habitat that we have—here at the field station and on South Campus—good for bees and other pollinators? What specific kinds of plant communities are going to have the highest diversity and abundance?” 

The mission of the Lees-McRae Stephenson Center for Appalachia is to promote understanding and appreciation of the Southern Appalachian region among both students and community members. The events on Monday, Oct. 30 and Tuesday, Oct. 31 will explore the cultural and environmental factors that set the region apart while fostering a greater appreciation for the people and organisms that call Southern Appalachia home.  

Learn more on The Den

By Emily WebbOctober 25, 2023