Roots music as ‘gentle evangelization’ at the Appaloosa Festival

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With summer winding down, you may think you've missed out on your last chance for wholesome carousing and carefree heel-kicking. If that's the case, put the Appaloosa Music Festival on your calendar. Featuring more than 20 roots bands, the inaugural event will take place at the scenic Skyline Ranch Resort in Front Royal Sept. 4-6.

Appaloosa is the brainchild of Scythian, a local 10-year-old band started by Catholic brothers Alex and Dan Fedoryka that performs what its members describe as "Celtic music with an edge." The sons of Damian Fedoryka, former president of Christendom College in Front Royal, they began performing on the street outside of the Torpedo Factory in Old Town Alexandria. They recently released their ninth album, Old Tin Can, which they will be promoting in Ireland in April 2016.

With experience headlining festivals in the Irish circuit, Dan Fedoryka (rhythm guitar/accordion/vocals) said Scythian felt qualified to host their own festival. But the idea for a secular but Catholic-friendly festival in the Blue Ridge Mountains didn't hit them until April this year. Since then, "it's been non-stop work," he said. "It's clear God had a hand in it."

Fedoryka, a parishioner of St. Mary Church in Alexandria, hopes the festival will serve as a "gentle evangelization" rather than a "preachy" effort. Before the first act on Sunday, Mass will be celebrated, as a nod to a tradition observed at both secular and Christian music festivals in Ireland.

"People will come to the festival and then they'll begin asking questions (about faith)," he said.

According to Fedoryka, eight of the bands identify as Christian, even if they do not play what's considered Christian music. Among them is the Marie Miller Band, who will have the recently broken up Catholic band, L'Angelus, playing backup and the Hillbilly Thomists, made up of six Dominican brothers.

Fedoryka added that a few of the musicians perform for a higher purpose. Take Catie Parker, the voice behind Little House Trio. The master's candidate sings as a means of providing music therapy to people with Down syndrome battling Alzheimer's. Konrad Wert of the one-man band Possessed by Paul James is a special education teacher, with a documentary about his advocacy work now in production.

"These are people who are in music, but they're not performing to get famous. They're using music for a worthy cause," said Fedoryka.

In the spirit of faith and good deeds, 10 percent of the proceeds from Appaloosa will go to charity, including the Little Sisters of the Poor in Washington, who Fedoryka described as "heaven's midwives."

"I don't care who you are," he said, "when you look at those nuns, you can't help but love them."

Fedoryka emphasized that Appaloosa will be a family-friendly affair, with no admission charge for children age 13 and under. He said that can make a big financial difference for large Catholic families. He added that parents do not have to worry about offensive lyrics, either.

"We're definitely not going to book offensive bands," he said. "Parents don't have to be concerned about what they're exposing their children to."

In addition to children's performers, Appaloosa will have a playground and games available for kids to stay occupied the whole weekend.

With food vendors, a beer garden, on-site camping and outdoorsy activities on and near the ranch, Fedoryka expects 3,000 people at the festival. He anticipates a mix of Catholic families, "cool, hip Catholics" and non-Catholics from throughout the region, including Scythian's avid fans in Washington.

"It will be a positive experience for everyone involved," said Dan. "Anytime Catholics come together, it's like a piece of heaven."

Find out more

For the full lineup, ticket information and more, go to appaloosafestival.com. Use the promo code 'Herald' to get 10 percent off your ticket and get automatically entered into a raffle for two VIP tickets.

Stoddard can be reached at cstoddard@catholicherald.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015