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Heritage Awards

Documentary story quilter Joan Gaither won the 2017 Heritage Award in the category of Person/People. Photo by Edwin Remsberg Pho
Century-old Cumberland restaurant and community gathering space Curtis’ Coney Island Famous Weiners (proprietor Gino Giatras, pi

Heritage Awards


About the Heritage Awards 

Heritage Awards recognize long-term achievement in folklife, or community-based living cultural traditions handed down by example or word of mouth. Awards are given through the Maryland Traditions state folklife program and annually recognize one recipient in each of three categories: Person/People, Place, and Tradition. Grant are $5,000 each.

  • Awards in the Person/People category are given to individuals whose efforts demonstrate long-term achievement in such areas as performance, creative practice, research, documentation, presentation, entrepreneurship, artistry, or community leadership

  • Awards in the Place category are given to locations having long-term importance as gathering points for community fellowship; sites for traditional practice; or places demonstrating continuing vitality due to the efforts of groups or individuals whose work might stretch over many generations

  • Awards in the Tradition category are given in honor of long-term practices that have connected communities to folklife through activities including traditional practices, recurring events, occupations, local knowledge, cultural movements, or organizations

Read the most recent Heritage Awards guidelines here.

The Heritage Awards were created in 2007 in honor of Dr. Alta Schock, a Garrett County community leader who taught biology at Frostburg State University and founded groups, events, and publications to support folklife in Appalachian Maryland and beyond. Dr. Schrock’s legacy and work are a continuing source of inspiration for the Heritage Awards today.



Schedules occur on the MSC fiscal year, which begins in July and ends in June:

  • Nominations

    • Nomination publication: September 1

    • Nomination deadline: October 15

  • Panelist evaluation

    • Call for panelists opening: October 8

    • Call for panelists closing: October 22

    • Review of nominations: December

  • Award processing

    • Awardees notified of status: January

    • Funds processed for awardees: January

  • Final reports

    • Final report instructions released: June

    • Final reports due: July


Past Grantees

Heritage Awards have been given annually since 2007 in support of Maryland people, places, and traditions demonstrating long-term achievement in folklife. MSAC documents Heritage Award winners in an effort to amplify their stories and raise their profile among the public. The links below illustrate the work of some past Heritage Award winners.

A full list of Heritage Award winners from 2007 to the present is below.


PERSON: Anna Holmes of North Brentwood (Prince George’s County) was a beloved educator, quilter, family historian and community activist.

PLACE:  Penn Alps & Spruce Forest Artisan Village in Grantsville (Garrett County) continues to safeguard Appalachian culture.

TRADITION: The National Outdoor Show promotes the traditions of Dorchester County’s marshes since 1938 and is the home of the International Muskrat Skinning Contest.


PERSON: The United Methodist Women of Smith Island (Somerset County) have perpetuated stories, songs and everyday lifeways for generations.

PLACE: J. Patrick's, once located in Baltimore City's Locust Point, was the region's main hub for celebrating Irish music and culture.

TRADITION: The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival fills the Howard County Fairground with sheep breeders, cooks, textile artists and every aspect of sheep fancying.


PERSON: George Wunderlich of Hagerstown (Washington County) is an acclaimed builder of mid-1800s Wunder banjos and a leading public cultural historian of the instrument and its roots.

PLACE: Blob’s Park & Bavarian Bier Garten in Jessup (Anne Arundel County) was opened by Max Blob in 1933 and was the home for great polka music and German fare.

TRADITION: Swan Meadow School of Oakland (Garrett County) teaches students the musical, culinary, literary and storytelling traditions of the Amish and Mennonite communities of Western Maryland.


PEOPLE: The descendants of Nathaniel “Uncle Nace” Hopkins hold the annual Emancipation Day celebrations in Trappe (Talbot County) since 1867.

PLACE: Globe Poster opened in Baltimore in 1927 to produce show posters for vaudeville acts, carnivals, burlesque and movie theaters.

TRADITION: Jousting is one of the oldest rural traditions of the Mid-Atlantic Region and is the Official State Sport.


PERSON: Rich Smoker is a master decoy carver who lives in Marion (Somerset County).

PLACE: Patterson Bowling Center Duckpin Bowling Lanes (Baltimore City) is the oldest duckpin bowling alley in the world.

TRADITION: The Singing & Praying Bands of Maryland (Eastern and Western Shore) are an African-American devotional/musical tradition that is unique to Delmarva.


PEOPLE: The Carroll County Ramblers are a family bluegrass group based in Taneytown (Carroll County).

PLACE: Sparrows Point Steel Mill and its Communities (Baltimore County), a now-closed steel mill that shaped the lives of hundreds of thousands of steelworkers and community members.

TRADITION:  J. Gruber’s Hagers-town Town and Country Almanack (Washington County) is the oldest almanac in the U.S. that is still produced by heirs of the original founder.


PERSON: Wallace M. Yater is a master blacksmith living in Boonsboro (Washington County).

PLACE: Piscataway Homelands: People Culture and Traditions of Prince George’s, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties.

TRADITION: The Oyster Fritters of the Sharptown Firemen’s Carnival (Wicomico County) are an enduring community tradition of the Eastern Shore.


PERSON: Bernard “Lefty” Kreh (Baltimore County) is a master fly fisherman, guide, journalist, photographer and author.

PLACE: Bending Water Park and Indian Water Trails (Somerset County) comprise indigenous landscapes and waterways significant to the history and culture of the Accohannock Indian Tribe of the Lower Eastern Shore.

TRADITION: The Painted Screens of Baltimore is one of the most iconic and well-known living traditions unique to the city.


PERSON: Captain Kermit "Robert Lee" Travers (Dorchester County) is reputedly the only surviving African-American skipjack captain active within the Chesapeake Bay Region.

PLACE: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church (Baltimore) is the main anchor for Greek culture in East Baltimore and is considered the most traditional, conducting services in both Greek and English.

TRADITION: The Marbles Game of the Greater Cumberland Region (Allegany County) is a source of deep community pride. With tournaments dating back nearly a century, games are taught in public schools and local players have won nine National Marbles Championships.


PERSON: Chum Ngek (Montgomery County) is a master of traditional Cambodian music and is the musical backbone of Cambodian communities in Maryland and beyond.
PLACE: Trimper's Rides and Amusements of Ocean City is the oldest family-owned amusement park in the nation, having opened its doors in 1893.
TRADITION: Maple syrup making is a generational tradition in Western Maryland and is carried forward today by families like the Steyers of Garrett County and the Shinholts of Allegany County.


PERSON: Joan Gaither (Anne Arundel County) creates story quilts that bring Maryland history to life, with a focus on the stories of the state's African-American communities.
PLACE: The Baltimore American Indian Center (Baltimore City) provides native communities with weekly culture classes, annual pow wows, a full-fledged community museum, a multipurpose meeting space and more.
TRADITION: The Skipjack Race and Festival of Deal Island (Somerset County) commemorates the skipjack, the traditional oystering and crabbing vessel of the Chesapeake Bay.


PERSON: The Sensational Royal Lights (Dorchester County) are the generational gospel quartet of the Elliott family, whose music and ministry are rooted in African-American devotional traditions.

PLACE: Curtis’ Coney Island Famous Weiners (Allegany County) is a century-old restaurant and community gathering space run by generations of the Giatras family in downtown Cumberland.

TRADITION: Stuffed ham (St. Mary’s County) is a regional culinary practice marking holidays, family gatherings, and community events in southern Maryland for hundreds of years.


PERSON: Jay Armsworthy (St. Mary’s County) is the bluegrass musician, promoter, organizer, and radio host whose efforts are known throughout and beyond his native southern Maryland.

PLACE: The Arch Social Club (Baltimore City) has been a central location for generations of African American community and culture in the city since 1912.

TRADITION: The bomba and plena percussion and dance traditions of Puerto Rico are upheld in Maryland through the work of the cultural arts organization Cultura Plenera (Howard County).


PERSON: Rock Howland of Carroll County is a master of Appalachian flatfooting, a mountain dance style that has emerged from a blend of Scots-Irish, African American, and Indigenous solo dance traditions over the past 150 years.

PLACE: The region now known as Dorchester County is the ancestral home of the Nause-Waiwash Band of Indians, descendants of the Nanticoke Indians who have made their home on the Eastern Shore for centuries. 

TRADITION: The Black Storytelling tradition is influenced on state and national levels by activities in Baltimore City, where organizations such as the National Association of Black Storytellers and the Griots’ Circle of Maryland steward and participate in African and African American oral traditions.