Mountain Grrl Experience in Pikeville, KY

Coaltown Dixie at the 2023 Mountain Grrl experience – photo © Larry Epling

This report from the 2023 Mountain Grrl Experience in Kentucky is a contribution from Kris Preston, co-founder of this free, three day festival in downtown Pikeville. Its two-fold aim is to celebrate the music, art, experience, and resilience of Appalachian women, while raising money to support the work of Turning Point Domestic Violence Services in Martin, KY.

Kris is also the mandolinist with Coaltown Dixie, an all-female bluegrass group based in eastern Kentucky, who specialize in what they call “high-heeled bluegrass.”

This was the third year for the Mountain Grrl Experience, an event held in Pikeville, KY that celebrates the creativity, resilience, strength, and artistry of Appalachian women. This family-friendly event features an art exhibit, live music, and workshops – all led by women.

The festival raises funds to help Appalachian women in need, specifically those requiring domestic abuse services. To date, Mountain Grrl Experience has raised almost $6,000.00 in charitable donations. Mountain Grrl Experience is a volunteer run organization that has been funded, in part by sponsorships and grants including an Artist Enrichment grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Woman that was awarded to Coaltown Dixie in 2021.

Bluegrass music was more prominent than ever this year with a Bluegrass Night kicking off the weekend, where four female-led bluegrass bands provided the entertainment: The Price Sisters, Coaltown Dixie, Kelly Caldwell, and Good Ground. It should be noted that all of these bands have a connection with the Kentucky School of Bluegrass and Traditional Music in Hyden, KY, having performed with or studied under the late Bobby Osborne in some capacity.

Coaltown Dixie members Kris Preston, Stephanie May Rose, Lindsey Larae Branson, and Melanie Turner led a Jump Up and Jam! workshop, and Melanie also led a Rhythm Fun workshop. Former Coaltown Dixie member Kalyn Bradford led a Create your own Rhythm Instrument workshop, and managed an Instrument Petting Zoo.

Kids and adults alike attended workshops that help preserve our Appalachian Heritage, such as a flatfoot dancing, hamboning with Tiffany Hall Owen, and How to play the dulcimer with Sarah Kate Morgan.

Folks can make plans for next year’s event in Pikeville, KY on June 20-22, 2024.