Since he passed away last May, Papa Joe’s legacy has lived on through those he inspired. On Sunday, that legacy will be honored in a tangible way at the Papa Joe Smiddy Mountain Music Festival, during which a hand-carved sculpture of Papa Joe will be publicly unveiled.
“I think that it really is just an exciting way to remember someone, to have them be permanently sculpted into brick,” said Dr. Joe Smiddy, Papa Joe’s son. “It’s a wonderful way to honor someone, and to be right there at the stage where Dad played many times, it will encourage young people to want to play music, they’ll be curious, and it’ll serve a great purpose.”
The 16th annual Papa Joe Smiddy Mountain Music Festival will be held Sunday, Sept. 2, from 3-9 p.m. at Natural Tunnel State Park, located at 1420 Natural Tunnel Parkway in Duffield.
Smiddy said he will take the stage with Reedy Creek, a band he played in with his father, at 7:45 p.m. The sculpture of his father, crafted by Johnny Hagerman, will be unveiled around 4 p.m.
A number of other musical acts will perform throughout the afternoon, including Poplar Hill Reunion, the UVa-Wise Bluegrass Band, the ETSU Old-Time Ramblers and Bluegrass Pride Band and the Miss Ellie String Band.
Audience members will also be invited to participate in a square dance led by Big Stone Gap native Tyler Hughes, with music by Andrew Barnes and Friends.
Advance tickets are now available for $10 and can be purchased online at www.coveridge.com, by phone at (276) 940-2674 or in person at Addington Oil in Weber City, the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce or Natural Tunnel State Park.
Tickets will also be available on the day of the event for $15, and children ages 12 and under will be admitted free. Attendees are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or blanket, and concessions will be available for purchase.
A life well lived
Smiddy said the festival was born through his father’s interest in old-time music, his love for Natural Tunnel and his passion for encouraging young people to play music. Along with the Cove Ridge Foundation, a number of people and organizations have partnered together to make the event happen.
Throughout his life, Papa Joe used music as a tool to connect with people, Smiddy said. With his natural talent as an entertainer and his ability to play multiple instruments, Papa Joe brought smiles to the faces of many during his lifetime.
“He wasn’t worried about hitting the occasional bad note,” Smiddy said. “He was smiling, tapping his foot, jumping around. He was so enthusiastic that the audience would forgive him if some musical piece didn’t exactly end up like it was intended. He was having so much fun, everybody else had fun.”
Smiddy predicts the festival will continue long into the future, thanks to community interest and the many supporters who make it possible.
“Music is part of who we are in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. … It’s who we are, and we get to celebrate who we are,” Smiddy said.