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Where can you find roots music, craft beer, and a Catholic Mass? The Appaloosa Music Festival


Fr. Lawrence Lew OP via Saint Joseph | Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Br. Simon Teller, O.P. - published on 08/27/19

The Labor Day weekend event in the Shenandoah Valley Virginia has the atmosphere of a Catholic family reunion.

How many major music festivals have you been to that were dedicated to the Infant of Prague?

If your answer is “zero,” then cancel your plans this Labor Day Weekend and come to see The Hillbilly Thomists perform at DC’s roots music festival: Appaloosa.

A musical collective of friars based out of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC, The Hillbilly Thomists play bluegrass and Americana folk. Their self-titled album was released in the winter of 2017 and quickly climbed to the number three spot on Billboard’s charts for top-selling bluegrass albums, while simultaneously becoming the highest-selling folk album on Amazon. Since their live performances come few and far between, you won’t want to miss them at Appaloosa (see below for more details about their show).

But, if the prospect of a bluegrass band of friars preachers can’t convince you to drop everything and trek through the Blue Ridge Mountains to Front Royal, Virginia, this Saturday (August 31), then perhaps the uniqueness of the festival itself will do the trick.

On the one hand, Appaloosa has all the essential features of your standard music festival: high-profile bands (playing bluegrass, Celtic, Americana, and country music), a stunning location in the foothills of the Shenandoah’s Blue Ridge Mountains, delicious local food, Appalachian vendors selling their arts and crafts, etc. To any music festival enthusiast, Appaloosa is sure to please.

But, unlike most other music festivals, this one’s got a sacramental twist.

Sunday Mass on the mainstage; religious habits dotting the crowds; a beer garden flooded by Catholic alumni groups (from the nearby Christendom College, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Catholic University of America, and the University of Dallas, to name a few). Since its opening five years ago, Appaloosa has become a summer destination of sorts for Catholic friends and families. When I asked one friar about his experience there, he responded: “It was great. Nine people asked me to hear their confessions.”

In the words of Bishop Michael Burbidge (Bishop of Arlington), “This festival in a very real way allows you to sing and proclaim the goodness of the Lord.”

Thanks to the genius of host-band Scythian (a Celtic group founded by alumni from Franciscan University), Appaloosa has the atmosphere of a Catholic family reunion. It’s an event created for every generation. Just down the hill from the hubbub of the mainstage, you’ll find the “kids-zone,” with its own stage for children’s artists and a whole array of games and activities (bounce houses, slides, face-paint, etc.).

So get your tickets, and come on out to Appaloosa!

The Hillbilly Thomists will perform at Appaloosa on Saturday, August 31, from 12:00-1:00 (on the Saloon Stage) and again from 4:30-5:15 (in the Workshop Zone). For more information, see the festival schedule. This article was first published in Dominicana Journal and is reprinted here with kind permission.

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