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Pickin’ in the Park Music in the Mountains part of Papa Joe's legacy

By Suzi McKee • May 27, 2017 at 10:30 AM

When you love music as much as “Papa Joe” Smiddy did, you’re always looking for a venue where you can showcase your skills and talents in front of a hometown audience.

As a music visionary for our area, Dr. Joseph C. “Papa Joe” Smiddy set as a goal to share his love for music with families, children and fledgling musicians by starting Pickin’ in the Park Music in the Mountains at Natural Tunnel State Park back in 2000. Papa Joe envisioned that one day musicians would come to perform their music all around the grounds when they weren’t performing on stage.

With free admission and only a $4 parking fee, Pickin’ in the Park Music in the Mountains is excellent entertainment for music lovers of all ages.

With the passing of “Papa Joe” on May 1, 2017, this year’s Pickin’ in the Park Music in the Mountains will be a special event filled with Appalachian music and the heritage that it represented in his life.

The events begin with featured performers followed by Open Mic where those who come and sign up can also have a chance to perform. At the end of the afternoon, a jam of musicians is held so that a multitude of talents and skills can be combined for additional entertainment. There’s also a dance floor for people who want to dance.

In the beginning, the events were held on the second and fourth Sunday afternoons of the summer months from 2 to 4 p.m. Today’s Pickin’ in the Park Music in the Mountains events are held on the last Sunday of May, June and July from 2 to 4 p.m.

All scheduled performers are given the opportunity to perform for 30 to 40 minutes. They are also eligible to be selected to perform during the Papa Joe Smiddy Mountain Music Festival which is held the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend. The selected performers will be paid for that weekend performance.

Participants in Open Mic are given the opportunity to perform three songs. This activity allows amateurs to express themselves with their musical ability in front of a live crowd.

This year’s performers include the Town Branch Bluegrass Band on May 28, the Church Hill Jammers on June 25, and the Miss Ellie String Band on July 30. Pickin’ in the Park Music in the Mountains is sponsored by the Hob-Nob Drive-In and the MECC School of Mountain Music and presented by the Cultural Arts Council of the Cove Ridge Center Foundation and Advisory Board.

For more information, visit the Natural Tunnel State Park website.

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