Villages like New Straitsville, Shawnee and Nelsonville popped up during the coal boom of the 19th and 20th centuries, and every year these small towns come together to celebrate their heritage. Held virtually, the annual Little Cities of Black Diamonds (LCBD) festival is right around the corner once again.
This will be the 27th year of the well-established festival, an opportunity to bring community members together and closer to the history of their land. According to LCBD council member and event planner Nicki Mazzocca, this year’s theme will be “From whence we came.”
“We’re all pretty excited about this (theme) because we’re talking about the history of the peoples of the region,” Mazzocca said. “We’re starting with the first peoples of the region, so the first tribes of the region that were here, all the way up to present day.”
Typically, in-person events for LCBD are bustling with people, and the Ohio Arts Council and donation-funded non-profit has had incredible success with sharing knowledge about southeast Ohio not just across the region, but across the world. However, this transition to online doesn’t mean the festival will be any less engaging; the week of the festival, a different event will be held online each day.
Monday will feature two lectures on the first settlers of southeast Ohio and the Underground Railroad by historian Ann Cramer, Tuesday the website will play a recorded lecture on mother nature and geography by Chris Wilson and Scott Moore and on Wednesday Janis Ivory will tell the fascinating history of Rendville, Ohio. Following the historians’ lectures, a historian live Q&A will be offered via Zoom on Thursday and the three-part documentary “The McNeils and the Sneddons” will be played on Friday.
On Saturday, Oct. 9, Mazzocca will host a Story Swap event, encouraging visitors to share stories of their family history with each other. Pre-recorded personal histories of local people will also be available to listen to. A virtual raffle with prizes from local artists, businesses, authors and historians will also be available throughout the course of the festival, with a drawing at noon on Oct. 9.
Mazzocca hopes to keep alive the past, stories and traditions of the LCBD region with events like the annual festival, and through that sharing of history and culture and environment, further enrich the future quality of life in the region.
“(We’re going to) get to dig into this history with an overall look, but also a very, very personal one, and get to know some folks from the history at a very personal level, which I love,” Mazzocca said of the festival. “I honestly think it’s just a really great opportunity to become more familiar with your local history.”
The 27th Little Cities of Black Diamonds festival will be free, held virtually Oct. 4 through Oct. 9 on their website, lcbdohio.org.