Grants program keeps the festival spirit alive
By Elissa Sonnenberg

Long after the last crumb of cornbread is swept from the grounds of the annual Appalachian Festival at Coney Island, the echoes of its mountain music, dance and culture reverberate in schools, community centers and artists' studios throughout Greater Cincinnati.

That's because the Appalachian Community Development Association (ACDA), which has organized the Festival for 44 of its 51 years, also administers a unique grant program that turns event proceeds into seed money. Success for the Festival means success for ACDA's grant recipients - organizations and individuals striving to affirm and enhance the lives of Appalachians and promote pride in Appalachian culture. ACDA has sown nearly $200,000 into worthy local projects since 1990.

Since its formation in 1974, the ACDA, an outgrowth of the Junior League, has had one goal - improve the communities and the social and cultural development of our area's Urban Appalachians. Translating that goal into action requires the efforts of lots of people who've never stepped foot in the mountains.

One grant helped teach inner-city girls about mountain life by putting them to work on a farm. Another is helping bring the dream of a neighborhood cultural heritage center to life. One built community through oral history and artistic performance. Another brought the sounds of the banjo to an East End church for a multi-cultural gospel workshop. The common thread that binds these projects is their spirit - strong, determined and resilient. It is an echo of the past that resonates in the present. A reminder of the Appalachian mountaineers and their migrant ancestors who to this day continue their quest for positive identity. In a society where harsh stereotypes drown out the sweet strains of the dulcimer, their spirit speaks of hope and inspiration.

"ACDA grants provide an important link for our people and our communities. They help keep the mountain spirit alive."

"If we don't know where we come from, then how can we know where we're going?"

To fulfill its purpose of “...encouraging Appalachians and non-Appalachians to value and appreciate the cultural heritage of Appalachia...” the Appalachian Community Development Association works in two different directions. One is to stage the annual Appalachian Festival and other events to directly showcase those cultural activities that bring pride to our people. We bring to Greater Cincinnati the music, crafts, history, literature and most importantly the people which best represent us. It is our goal to produce events at a cost that is as affordable as possible so that families can come and discover the richness of Appalachian culture.

Secondly, to share this rich heritage and enable others to develop pride in their culture, the ACDA annually awards financial grants to organizations that work with the Appalachian community and the population at large to teach them about our cultural heritage. This year, we are again awarding local organizations a chance to bring Appalachian traditions to our community.

2019 Grant Award Winners

Corryville Suzuki Project 

Saturday Ensemble and Music Theory Program (SEMTP)

As their musical skills progress, students need to be experienced beyond private lessons.  CSP provides its students' opportunities to enhance their musical growth and develop the specialized skills needed to play in ensembles through the SEMTP.  The SEMTP includes five classes focusing on Suzuki literature, five levels of music theory classes, two levels of chamber literature classes, two multi-part ensembles (TEEN STRINGS and the Repertoire Ensemble), and an early childhood education class.  The SEMTP allows CPS to increase the number of ensembles that can perform in the community and serve a larger variety of audiences.

The goal of this program is to train students to read and understand music, play different styles of music, develop ensemble skills, and solidify the repertoire and technique they have already learned through private lessons.

These students will prepare from January to May 2020 to play music for the 51st Annual Appalachian Festival!

suzuki project

Miami University

Industrial Strength Bluegrass, Ohio's Bluegrass Heritage

The proposed project Industrial Strength Bluegrass, Ohio's Bluegrass Heritage will celebrate the significant history of bluegrass music in Southwestern Ohio through the creation of a new compilation musical recording, to be produced by International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) President Joe Mullins and distributed by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. The proposed recording album will dramatically expand the reach of local music to a remote audience and showcase the important role of Southwestern Ohio in the history and heritage of bluegrass music nationwide.


Express: Urban Appalachian Culture

Urban Appalachian Community Coalition’s 2019 sponsored cultural programs to include Urban Appalachian Leadership Project grads presentations at the Appalachian Festival; Express – Urban Appalachian Showcase (2 school time presentations/1 evening showcase (Oct. 24); Writing Our Roots Contest for 13 to 23-year-old youth with an Awards Ceremony on November 4th. Artist mini-residencies and workshops are also being offered to the schools.

The sponsored cultural events and activities celebrate Appalachia and promote a deeper, fuller appreciation of the strength and beauty of the culture. Directly and indirectly, we need to build a better understanding of our own and others’ cultures.

Past Grant Award Winners 

Appalachian Connection
Russ Childers 
Urban Appalachian Community Coalition
Babies Milk Fund
YWCA Butler County
Will Henry Hartsock
Corryville Suzuki Project
O'Tucks Scholarships
EduDoc Foundation

If you are part of an organization that shares our purpose, then you are encouraged to develop a program that helps instill pride in Appalachian heritage and apply for a grant. Applications for grants must be submitted by March 1st of the year if they are to be granted. You may write or call the Appalachian Community Development Association, or simply print the pdf application. (word document click here)

New Online Grant Application

A.C.D.A Mission Statement:

To promote the social, educational, and cultural development with the Appalachian Community of the Greater Cincinnati area and the Appalachian Region. We strive to improve our self-image and encourage the best of Appalachian values while creating understanding and appreciation of the Appalachian cultural heritage.

In the aggregate, The Appalachian Community Development Association values a diverse portfolio of you or your organization to reach a broad spectrum of people and geographies.

The following questions are extremely vital to the application process. This information will be read and reviewed by the A.C.D.A. Board of Trustees. Please be as brief and specific as possible:

Please limit your responses to 75 words or less.


Due to the pandemic, we have had to make the difficult decision to cancel the 2021 Festival.  With this cancelation, we are unfortunately not able to award any grants for 2021.   We rely on the festival profits to fund our grant fund and without the festival, this fund will be put on hold until Mother's Day Weekend 2022.

The deadline for the 2022 application will be May 9th, 2022

2022 Grants will be announced in July!

* indicates required information

I. Contact Information

II. Organization Information or Bio

III. Program / Project / Exhibit Description and Methodology

** Please send a one (1) page budget for the entire program / project / exhibit to

Use format mm/dd/yy

For internal use only