This family-friendly faith-fostering music event in Virginia brings fun and spiritual nourishment.
There’s a little town tucked away in Virginia called Front Royal. Perhaps you know of it because of Christendom College, or the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding it, or the Shenandoah River running through it. Perhaps you’ve just heard these things sung about in John Denver lyrics.
Either way, it is simply perfect for a large Labor Day weekend folk music festival, attracting hundreds of Catholic families from all over the country. Hosted by the Celtic rock band Scythian, the annual Shenandoah Valley roots music festival has gained traction and the word is spreading.
The festival has become an annual tradition for many families; the last jewel in their summer crown, as they pack their vans with camping gear and head out for a weekend of good music, food, and family fun for all ages.
Mass is part of the weekend and the chance to celebrate the liturgy there is uniquely beautiful.
I remember last year hearing the Divine Praises from one of the stages, the morning of the canonization of beloved Mother Teresa of Calcutta, which fell on that particular Labor Day weekend. Weary campers who had been up far too late the night before reached into their suitcases for their Sunday best, and climbed the hill.
It was truly a sight to behold. The same stage that had come alive with music and festivities only the night before was now occupied by a music ensemble lifting praises to God. As they sung, a solemn peace disseminated, creating a sacredness of the space that could be enjoyed even by those still cozy in their sleeping bags.
As I took my seat in a fold-out chair under the gorgeously open Shenandoah sky, I was in awe of the number of people continuing to fill chairs, lay blankets, and crowd the field around for standing room. I also noticed musicians from a great many of the bands interspersed among the crowd of our outdoor congregation to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
This is what makes the Appaloosa festival different from any ordinary music festival. Despite the fun and energetic music enjoyed late into the evening, fans and musicians alike are gathered come Sunday morning, using their beautiful talents to glorify the Lord. I was captivated as the voices of our outdoor congregation rose up those Blue Ridge mountains. The witness of the importance of the Sacrifice of the Mass, held right there on one of the premier stages, outdid all talent and skill the festival could possibly offer.
This is the pinnacle and crowning glory of the Labor Day festival. This is why people came in from far and wide, and stayed for the weekend. These people knew they would not only be entertained, but spiritually fed as well. This joy permeated our interactions and experiences throughout the weekend, and its contagious nature was evident throughout that beautiful Sunday.
The family-dominated atmosphere of the festival, with strong support from both Christendom and Franciscan University alumni, certainly helps cultivate undertones of inclusive joy, extended toward all who attend. Truly becoming childlike at heart, fans of all ages find themselves joining in festivities ranging from Irish dancing and bluegrass performances, to songwriting workshops and children’s shows.
The wildly fun and engaging stage masters, Scythian, fulfill their goal to bring a home-grown opportunity for fans and vendors alike, in their own home-town of Front Royal.
The Appaloosa festival is far more than music. It offers a great opportunity for community – spanning generations, as well as lasting friendships. For as St. Teresa of Calcutta taught us, “Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”
*10% of all festival profits will go to charity and Appaloosa has named The Little Sisters as a beneficiary.
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