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Call for Nomminations: Maryland Traditions ALTA Awards

Call for Nomminations: Maryland Traditions ALTA Awards


July 23, 2013News

The Maryland Traditions ALTA Award is given annually to individuals and organizations who exemplify outstanding stewardship of living traditions in Maryland. Awards are given in the categories of People, Place, and Traditions. What follows is an overview of the Award, nomination criterion (by category), a list of recipients from 2007-2012, and a template for nominations.

Nominations for the 2013 Maryland Traditions ALTA (Achievement in Living Traditions and Arts) Awards will be due via email no later than 5PM, August 22, 2013. Nominations should be emailed to AND Nominations can come in the form of a simple list of names/places/traditions, or can be full-blown essays based on creditable fieldwork/research (the latter is preferable). Letters of support from community members are always beneficial – though they are not required.

2013 Alta Award Nomination--Required Materials

  • Nomination Category (Please Specify People, Place, or Tradition)
  • Nominee
  • Address of Nominee
  • Phone of Nominee
  • Name and Contact of Person Nominating
  • Description of Person, Place, or Tradition being nominated (2 pages max)
  • List of additional materials (letters of support, etc. – may be sent under separate cover)


The ALTA Award, which stands for Achievement in Living Traditions and Arts, was created by Maryland Traditions in 2007 to recognize outstanding stewardship of Maryland’s living traditions. The award is named in honor of folklorist and community leader Dr. Alta Schrock (1911-2001). Dr. Schrock, a native of Garrett County, taught biology at Frostburg State University and also founded publications, events and lasting institutions designed to share and safeguard her region’s traditional art forms. Her achievements in cultural conservation include the creation of The Spruce Forest Artisan Village, Penn Alps, the Journal of the Alleghenies and the Springs Festival.

Each year, three awards are made in the categories of people, place, and tradition. PEOPLE are selected based on their demonstration of the highest standards of excellence in such areas as research, documentation, presentation, entrepreneurship, artistry, stewardship and community impact; PLACES honored are those that specially serve to keep traditions alive and that are meaningful and effective gathering places or sites for carrying on living or endangered traditions; and TRADITIONS recognized are those that connect communities to cultural heritage in ways that exemplify Maryland’s dynamic spirit and may include events, occupations, knowledge, cultural scenes, and organizations.



PEOPLE: The Carroll County Ramblers are a family bluegrass group based in Taneytown, Maryland (Carroll County). Founded by Dottie and Leroy Eyler in 1961, the group has mentored generations of bluegrass musicians throughout the Maryland/Pennsylvania/Virginia/West Virginia quad-state region. Their style is best described as “traditional bluegrass” and their original songs chronicle local history, the everyday fabric of family life and are reflective of Dottie and Leroy’s family heritage as mid-Maryland sharecroppers and railroad workers. When Leroy Eyler passed away in 1995, and Dottie Eyler retired from performing in 2010, daughter Bonnie Eyler (bass, vocals) and son Dale Eyler (fiddle, vocals) became the group’s leaders. For 51 years, the Carroll County Ramblers have been staples of bluegrass festivals throughout the mid-Atlantic region and were featured performers at the 1976 Maryland Folklife Festival.

PLACE: Sparrows Point Steel Mill and its Communities are being honored as a vital ‘place’ of enduring importance in the industrial heritage and story of Maryland. For 125 years, hundreds of thousands of steel workers and associated personnel have known Sparrows Point Steel Mill (Baltimore County) not only as a place of employment, but as “home” – the center of community life, with special importance in the company towns of Dundalk and Sparrows Point. Created by the Pennsylvania Steel Company in 1887, and taken over by Bethlehem Steel in 1916, the mill became the world’s largest center for steel production and shipbuilding. The site of the mill remains a significant place that grounds a living heritage amongst former workers and community members. This community’s stories and traditions have been carefully documented by oral historians Elmer Hall, Louis Diggs, and the Dundalk Patapsco Neck Historical Society, who accept the ALTA on behalf of the Mill’s communities.

TRADITION: J. Gruber’s Hagers-town Town and Country Almanack is the oldest almanac in the US that is still produced by heirs of the original founder, John Gruber. Established in Hagerstown (Washington County), it has been providing agricultural, meteorological and astrological information for the mid-Atlantic region since 1797. The Almanack, which also contains folk remedies, local poetry and traditional community wisdom, is currently edited by the great-great-great-great great grandson of John Gruber, Charles W. Fisher, Jr. Millions of copies have been sold and distributed, impacting a significant amount of agricultural communities. It is said that The Almanack has made Hagerstown widely known throughout the US and has given Maryland an ‘epicenter’ of farming and agricultural life. At its core is the tradition of forecasting next year’s weather by using centuries-old astronomical calculations, a process that is still continued by mathematician, Professor William O’Toole III of Emmitsburg.


PERSON: Rich Smoker is a master decoy carver who lives in Marion, Maryland (Somerset County) and grew up on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. He developed an interest in waterfowl at an early age and began carving hunting decoys with his father.

PLACE: Patterson Bowling Center Duckpin Bowling Lanes is the oldest duckpin bowling alley in the world and Baltimore’s sole remaining duckpin-only alley. Located near Patterson Park, it was founded in 1927.

TRADITION: The Singing & Praying Bands of Maryland (Eastern and Western Shore) are an African-American devotional/musical tradition that is unique to the Delmarva. With origins in West African religion, Christianity, and African-American ring shout traditions, Singing & Praying Bands developed during slavery.


PEOPLE: The descendants of Nathaniel “Uncle Nace” Hopkins hold the annual Emancipation Day celebrations in Trappe (Talbot County) since 1867. Hopkins was born into slavery, served in the Union Army during the Civil War and founded the Emancipation Day parade.

PLACE: Globe Poster opened in Baltimore in 1927 to produce show posters for vaudeville acts, carnivals, burlesque and movie theaters. It has defined the regional and international visual aesthetic of R&B, Soul and Funk for over 60 years, as well as electoral campaigns, carnivals and festivals.

TRADITION: Jousting is one of the oldest rural traditions of the mid-Atlantic region. Maryland is home to two ring jousting tournaments that have run annually since before the Civil War. Jousting is Maryland’s official state sport.


PERSON: George Wunderlich of Hagerstown (Washington County) is an acclaimed builder of minstrel era (mid-1800s) Wunder banjos and aleading public cultural historian of the banjo and its Baltimore-based commercial roots.

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

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


PEOPLE: The United Methodist Women of Smith Island have perpetuated traditions, stories, songs and everyday lifeways for generations. They have become known for Smith Island Layer Cake, anointed in 2008 as our official State Dessert.

PLACE: J. Patrick’s, located in Baltimore City’s Locust Point, is the home for social gatherings of musicians, dancers and anyone interested in Irish music and culture.

TRADITION: The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival fills the Howard County Fairgrounds with sheep breeders, cooks, textile artists and every aspect of sheep fancying. It is considered the finest and largest sheep and wool event in the nation.


PERSON: Anna Holmes of North Brentwood (Prince George’s County) is an educator, quilter, family historian and community activist whose work on behalf of her family and her hometown has ensured that their stories will be preserved.

PLACE: Penn Alps & Spruce Forest Artisan Village in Grantsville (Garrett County) continues to preserve and showcase Appalachian culture for all who venture onto the National Road.

TRADITION: The National Outdoor Show has presented the culture of Dorchester County’s marshes since 1938 and is the home of the International Muskrat Skinning contest.