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A roots music festival with a Catholic soul

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Cathy and Bill Naabe traveled from St. Petersburg, Fla., to hear the Young Dubliners at Appaloosa. The Irish rock band played Friday night, but on Sunday morning, the couple was still at the festival, tapping their toes to the music stylings of Low Water Bridge.


“The Young Dubliners (were) who we came out to see, but we loved so many more groups here,” said Cathy. They enjoyed the homey environment, a great view of the stage, the quality of the music and how many young families attended. “It's been a terrific experience and we’ll probably be back,” she said.


Pandemic precautions prevented the musical gathering in 2020, but this is the sixth Appaloosa, an outdoor roots music festival held in Front Royal Aug. 13-15. Danylo Fedoryka, one of the founders of Appaloosa, a member of the band Scythian and a parishioner of St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal, described the event as a mainstream, high-caliber music festival with a Catholic soul.


“Music goes to the core of every human being and it bypasses your political stance and anything like that. It’s really souls meeting souls,” he said. “My mother always said it's beauty that's going to save the world. Don’t politicize your music, but do it beautifully because that’s what opens hearts and allows the Holy Spirit to do his thing. If you can do something beautifully and generously, God will take care of the rest.


“My mother passed away from cancer 10 years ago and we really feel like every year this festival is an incarnation of that spirit.”


The festival featured fiddlers, bagpipers, folk singers, food and ice cream trucks, musical workshops and vendors, all set against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Those who were unable to attend watched the performances via livestream. The family-friendly gathering also had a kids stage, moon bounces and face painting. Before the festival opened on Sunday morning, Mass was celebrated in a field for those camping nearby.


A group of singers and musicians provided the music for the Mass, alongside the chorus of babies from the many families in the crowd. In his homily, Father Donald J. Planty, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington, spoke about heaven as a festival of praise to God. “When we sing we use our whole selves, body and soul, in giving honor and glory to God,” he said. “The beauty of the music that is made here is ultimately a reflection of the beauty of God. He created us to be creators like him and with him, and when we use the creative powers that he’s given us to make beautiful things, they redound to the greater glory of God.”


After Mass, volunteers folded the chairs, directed incoming festivalgoers to parking and took tickets. Fedoryka said Appaloosa owes a lot to the generosity of the volunteers, who give their time because they value building up a positive culture of “music among friends,” the festival's tagline. Lew Luftig was one such volunteer.


“I appreciate what you guys do here,” Luftig told Fedoryka. “Any festival that can have a beer garden and a Mass is a good place.” 

Check out this past Appaloosa coverage:


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021