Canal Jam promises period music, stories

Period music and stories will be shared at Canal Jam II, scheduled for Sept. 23 at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site near Gallitzin.

The event, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., is free and is sponsored by the National Park Service and Penn State Altoona’s Center for Community-Based Studies.

It is for anyone interested in traditional American music and other forms of entertainment performed at port towns and on the route of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal from about 1832 to 1889, according to an event press release.

Award-winning author Steven Sherrill will read from his 2012 book, “The Locktender’s House,” which was based loosely on events that happened along the canal systems of the Northeast around the turn of the 20th century. He will be accompanied by scholar-musicians Jerry Zolten and Richard Sleigh.

Several aural, or sound, traditions of the era will be heard throughout the festival, according to organizer Tom Shaffer.

Songs about canals and canal life are the focus of Smithsonian Folkways artists William Hullfish and the Golden Eagle String Band. And Gettysburg-based ensemble Dearest Home is scheduled to perform ballads and other authentic period folk music.

Zolten and Sleigh will introduce Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops Dom Flemons, who embodies the American songster tradition, the traveling musician of the 19th century, with roots in American minstrelsy.

Weather permitting, a “canal jam” at the park amphitheater will end the celebration. Festival-goers are encouraged to bring their instruments; an assortment will be available.

Those who register online by Sept. 21 will be treated to a light smorgasbord of period-inspired, locally sourced foods on the lawn of the park’s historic Lemon House tavern. Penn State Altoona students — led by faculty member Bonnie Cutsforth-Huber — will perform a cappella during the luncheon.


If you go

What: Canal Jam II

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 23

Where: Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site near Gallitzin

Admission: Free

Note: A free luncheon will be available for those who register in advance by Sept. 21 at or by calling (814) 949-5789