- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 2, 2005

FROSTBURG, Md. (AP) — Kara Rogers Thomas is looking forward to buckwheat cakes and maple syrup, but not necessarily on the same plate or even on the same day.

Her interest comes with the new job as resident folklorist at Frostburg State University, where she wants to document syrup making and buckwheat cake dinners as traditions of central Appalachia, which includes Western Maryland.

Miss Thomas arrived in December to the job, partially funded by Maryland Traditions, a state program dedicated to folk life and folk art. She plans to take a disciplined approach to the material she uncovers in local establishments, newspapers and from students in her “Folklore in Appalachia” class.

“I’ve been taught not to go into a place with any preconceived notions of what exists,” Miss Thomas said. “Instead, move to the place, get to know it intimately, stay there for as long as one can and allow the place to reveal itself to you.”

Then she will share her discoveries through scholarly papers, community meetings, video documentaries, audio recordings, heritage tours and public demonstrations.

Maryland Traditions helped bring Baltimore screen painting to the city’s Artscape festival last year and put Chesapeake Bay watermen and storytellers on the Mall last summer as part of the Smithsonian Institution’s Folklife Festival.

The organization is a collaboration of two state agencies, the Maryland State Arts Council and the Maryland Historical Trust, and is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Maryland Traditions also works with the Catoctin Center for Regional Studies at Frederick Community College and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michael’s, said Rory P.B. Turner of the state arts council.

Miss Thomas defines folklore as “the study of human creativity as a reflection of culture and-or place.”

It’s an umbrella big enough to cover the familiar Appalachian topics of clogging and ginseng collecting and such modern inventions as jacked-up pickup trucks and the punky bluegrass music called psychobilly.

Miss Thomas, a Missouri native, has studied mountain music in western North Carolina and folk traditions of the Great Smoky Mountains. She said she relishes the opportunity to explore another part of Appalachia but has had difficulty getting her students to embrace their own heritage.

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