When Historic Rugby returns to its roots, it sure sounds good.


Tennessee’s world-famous utopian Victorian village will celebrate Memorial Day weekend with “Rugby Roots,” a music and performing arts festival featuring British and Appalachian music, dancing, and storytelling.


The festival will take place Saturday, May 28. Daytime performances begin at noon and continue through 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Festivities continue with an evening concert featuring the event’s headline performer, renowned Appalachian musician, musicologist, and storyteller Sheila Kay Adams.


A seventh-generation ballad singer, storyteller, and claw-hammer banjo player, Sheila Kay Adams was born and raised in the Sodom Laurel community of Madison County, North Carolina, an area renowned for its unbroken tradition of unaccompanied singing of traditional southern Appalachian ballads that dates back to the early Scots/Irish and English Settlers in the mid-17th century.


In addition to ballad singing, Adams is an accomplished claw hammer-style banjo player and storyteller. She began performing in public in her teens and, throughout her career she has performed at festivals, events, music camps, and workshops around this country and the United Kingdom. Other performances include the acclaimed International Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee as well as the 1976 and 2003 Smithsonian Folklife Festival as part of The Bicentennial Celebration and Appalachia: Heritage and Harmony.


Festival Offers Something For Everyone

Performers will be featured throughout the village. Venues include:

  • Main Music Stage:  Adams will perform a daytime set on the main music stage, located on the Parkway west of Kingstone Lisle, the original home of Rugby’s founder Thomas Hughes.
  • Sharing the daytime stage with her will be Cat’s Away, a versatile group that brings a mix of Americana, classics, rock, novelty, and country. Other acts will be named later.
  • Harrow Road Café Porch Stage:  Hear old-time singer Roy Harper, recipient of a Tennessee Folklife Heritage Award. Alternating with Harper will be bluegrass and old time singers The Hughetts.
  • Storytelling Stage:  Be mesmerized by Libby Tipton, a professional sign language interpreter from Flag Pond, TN, who utilizes a combination of sign, gesture, and voice to tell stories about her culture and roots.  You’ll also enjoy Joy Salberg, known as “Joy the Braded Teller,” who tells stories of hope, love, and belief in the future. And Rugby welcomes back Delanna Reed, from East Tennessee State University, presenting traditional British and Appalachian Jack tales.
  • British Dance:  British dance will be represented, as at Rugby Spring Festivals for the past four decades. Artists this year are the Lark in the Morn Country Dancers from Knoxville and their instrumentalists, performing in front of the schoolhouse and inviting visitors to join them in the traditional maypole dance. Audience participation is welcomed.

Food vendors and Harrow Road Cafe will provide food and drink for everyone, with fares ranging from festival favorites to traditional British dishes. Wine and ales are also available.


Mountain Laurel Hikes Begin The Day; Village Tours Tell The Story Of A Noble Idea That Still Resonates

There’s plenty to do even before the performances begin. Start with a hike along one of Rugby’s numerous trails (the Village is located adjacent to Big South Fork Recreational Area; there’s even a ranger station on site) to view Mountain Laurel in bloom, along with scores of other spring flowers.  Or learn the unique history of Rugby, with a tour of the historic buildings and homes (including one of the nation’s oldest operating libraries) and visits to Rugby’s fascinating shops.

Festival tickets are $12 for daytime performances (which includes the Historic Rugby tour), $8 for the evening concert only, or a combined ticket price of $17 for both. Ticket revenue supports artist fees and also helps Historic Rugby maintain and staff the Visitor Centre and Rebecca Johnson Theatre. Tickets can be purchase in advance online at www.historicrugby.org or onsite the day of the festival.

Rugby was founded in 1880 with the goal of building a strong agricultural community through cooperative enterprise, while maintaining a cultured, Christian lifestyle, free of the rigid class distinctions that prevailed in Britain at the time. The village has continued for 135 years, with numerous original buildings either restored or recreated. Learn more about the history of Rugby and its unique attractions at www.historicrugby.org.

Historic Rugby, Inc., the non-profit that oversees preservation and education in the village, is celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2016.