Bill Lynch, Mason Adams, Lauren Griffin, Zack Harold, Kelley Libby, Eric Douglas Published

Spotlighting Award-Winning Stories, Inside Appalachia

Two young man stand next to each other in front of a train. One is dressed in blue overalls, while the other is dressed in brown pants with suspenders. Both are wearing ball caps.
Matthew Hauser (left) and Brown Culp (right) are recruits from North Carolina working at Cass Scenic Railroad. Starting out as volunteer train enthusiasts, Hauser is now an engineer with his friend Culp as his fireman.
Lauren Griffin/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This week, we listen back to three award-winning Folkways stories from last year. First, we visit a luthier’s shop, where old musical instruments get new life.

We also take a ride on the Cass Scenic Railroad and meet the expert crew who keeps its antique trains running.   

And we learn what draws people from hours away to Floyd, Virginia’s weekly Friday Night Jamboree. 

You’ll hear these stories and more this week, Inside Appalachia.

In This Episode:

An Instrument Repair Ninja Shares His Story

Take a peek into the amazing musical world of Bob Smakula. Credit: Zack Harold/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Since 2019, our Folkways project has produced more than 130 stories about mountain arts and culture. In this episode, we revisit three stories, which won awards at the Virginias Associated Press Broadcasters Competition.

We begin with a story about luthier Bob Smakula. He’s made a career out of fixing old musical instruments, so modern musicians can keep playing them. 

Folkways Reporter Zack Harold takes us to a place most people don’t get to visit: inside Smakula’s workshop.

Cass Scenic Railroad Looks To The Future

Built in the 1920s, the Durbin Rocket tourist train is a popular attraction for the Cass Railroad. Credit: Lauren Griffin/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Generational learning is very important. In a visit to Cass Scenic Railroad, we hear from senior employee Rex Cassell, who passed away before this segment aired. 

Cassell was a crucial part of why visiting the Cass Railroad in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, feels like you’re stepping back in time. 

Folkways Reporter Lauren Griffin brought us this story.

Friday Night Lights Up At The Floyd Country Store

Robbie Harmon (back to camera) and Chad Ritchie (fiddle) of Wilkesboro, North Carolina, play music on the sidewalk at the Friday Night Jamboree in Floyd, Virginia. Credit: Mason Adams/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

We also visited the hometown of host Mason Adams — Floyd, Virginia. 

It’s this sprawling county, of about 15,000 people on the Blue Ridge Plateau, catty-corner to Roanoke and Blacksburg. There’s one stoplight in the county, and it’s in the town of Floyd — a tiny little place home to about 500 year-round residents.

Mason showed us around and took us to the Friday Night Jamboree at the Floyd Country Store. 

Marshall Student Journalist React To New Protections

West Virginia recently became the 17th state in the nation and the first Appalachian state to pass the Student Journalist Press Freedom Protection Act, which helps protect student journalists from censorship.

WVPB News Director Eric Douglas spoke with Makaylah Wheeler, the student news director at Marshall University campus radio station WMUL, and Faculty Advisor Chuck Bailey about how the law will affect their work. 


Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Marisa Anderson, Tyler Childers, The Wayfarers and The Appalachian Road Show. 

Bill Lynch is our producer. Our executive producer is Eric Douglas. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode.

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Inside Appalachia is a production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.