Eastern Kentucky’s premier spring festival celebrates 10th year April 11-12

Published on
March 18, 2014
Moses Hamlin demonstrates iron forging techniques at the 2013 Redbud Festival

After nearly a decade as a successful community-run event that highlights Eastern Kentucky’s rich culture, the former Redbud Festival and Heritage Living Event has rebranded itself this year as the “Union College Redbud Festival of Appalachian Culture.” This popular event, held April 11-12 on the college’s Barbourville campus, once again features the arts, crafts, music, storytelling, and simple living practices indigenous to Appalachia, but now offers a stronger concentration on academic education and a deeper exploration of the culture of the region 

In 2003, the Barbourville, Ky., Office of Tourism formed a committee to establish and manage the Redbud Festival and Heritage Living Event on Union College campus to attract visitors to southeastern Kentucky. After the 2013 event, the festival committee proposed that Union take ownership of the festival. Union College leaders readily agreed. “We are pleased to take ownership of this much loved community event,” said Union College President Marcia Hawkins. “Our goal is to actively engage students and community in a celebration of the rich history and tradition of our Appalachian region.”

The festival kicks off with the Redbud Color Run on Saturday, April 5. This year’s event, “No Excuse for Child Abuse 5k Run/Walk” begins at 9 a.m. at the Union College Student Center and benefits Child Abuse Prevention in Kentucky. The run is co-sponsored by the Barbourville Junior Woman’s Study Club. 

A key educational feature of the Redbud Festival, “Re-imagining Development in Eastern Kentucky: A Symposium on History and Place,” will be held on Friday, April 11, at 1 p.m. in the Rector Little Theatre. The session will explore current economic challenges facing eastern Kentucky and foster a dialogue between local, regional and state leaders, community members and Union College students, faculty and staff 

Scheduled to present at the symposium are: Mandy Lambert, acting commissioner of the Department for Business Development and interim executive director of the Office of Entrepreneurship, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development; Teresa Montgomery, Knox County extension agent for Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service; Kent Whitworth, executive director, Kentucky Historical Society; Hal B. Goode, president and CEO, Kentucky Association for Economic Development; and Jeff Spradling, director, University of Kentucky Robinson Scholars Program, University of Kentucky Appalachian Center.

Other key features of this year’s Redbud Festival include:
  • The third annual Redbud Warm-Up will be held on Friday, April 11, at 10 a.m., beginning on Union College’s campus. The Warm-Up is a preparatory bike ride for one of Kentucky’s premier cycling events, the Redbud Ride, held the next day in nearby London, Ky. To register, visit www.redbudride.com.
  • The first annual Union College Student Research Forum will feature students who are producing research in/for the Appalachian region. Undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at Union College will display research posters and give oral presentations on Friday, April 11, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., in the Sharp Academic Center. A list of poster and presentation titles, as well as specific room locations for oral presentations, can be found at www.redbudfestky.com.
  • The Biblical Quilt Exhibit is a private quilt collection of Rev. Dr. J. Donald Graham of Berea, Ky., and will be on display at the Conway Boatman Chapel on April 11 and 12, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • To promote environmental education in the Appalachian region, the Redbud Festival will host “Clean Up the Cumberland River” on Saturday, April 12, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Student volunteers will meet at the Frances Patridge Campus Center.
  • Sporting clinics will be featured on Saturday, April 12, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., including caving, golf, fencing, lacrosse, soccer, basketball, tennis and volleyball.
  • A Chautauqua, featuring the life of Lilley Cornett, will be held on Saturday, April 12, at 6 p.m. in the Gazebo on the front of campus. Storytelling by other notable Appalachia natives will be featured throughout the festival.
  • “No War on Dignity: Exploring the War on Poverty Photographs of Warren Brunner” is a photography exhibit produced and loaned by the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center of Berea College. Selected images for the Union College exhibit focus on Knox and nearby counties and will be shown in the Sharp Academic Center April 11 and 12 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Writers’ Row, on Saturday, April 12, beginning at 10 a.m. in the Robsion Arena, provides an opportunity to meet the Festival’s featured authors, and allows the authors to talk about themselves, their books, their inspirations, their dreams and passions. 
  • The Union College Redbud Festival’s indoor/outdoor Heritage and Simple Living Area will showcase the arts and artisans, the music and instruments, and the history of early settlers through a high-quality collection of more than 50 vendors. Demonstrations will include apple butter cooking, metal and iron forging, horse shoeing, beekeeping, water collection and filtration, fire-starting techniques, farm and camping skills. Informational booths will feature FFA, 4-H, Knox County Extension Office, Knox Whitley Animal Shelter, Spread the Health Appalachia and more. Festival patrons can browse wares native to the region, including goats’ milk soap, hand-made toys, jewelry, hand-spun yarns, and fruits and vegetable courtesy of Whitley County Farmer’s Market. A full schedule of free presentations and mini-workshops can be found at www.redbudfestky.com.
  • The music of Appalachia will be on hand throughout the festival, and include performances by Have Gun Will Travel, Two Man Group, Kites, Common Strings, Zac Hart, Jordan Allen and the Bellweathers, William Tyree, Wilderness Road, Jim Rubin, Flickertail Hollar, Andy Messer and Mary Beth Spurlock.


The Union College Redbud Festival of Appalachian Culture has been named one of Kentucky’s Top 10 Spring Festivals & Events by the Kentucky Travel Industry Association. Most festival components are free and open to the public, but some require registration and entry fees (i.e., the Warm-Up Run and Redbud Ride). For more information about the Redbud Festival, a complete list of vendors and schedule of events, please visit www.redbudfestky.com.