Hillbilly Park: Creating Identity in the Borderlands

Hillbilly is a state of mind, one that resonates louder the more it is shared. Rhetorical vision seems clearer, the shared memory banks seem fuller, when others are present to partake it. If a rhetorical vision is compelling, we create and embody place to abet sharing the fantasy with others. When enough people of a similar ilk congregate, a communal gathering place can become a temporary autonomous zone that serves to create connection, provide affirmation, transmit culture, and invoke pleasing memory places. Located in the borderlands of Appalachia, 11 miles east of Newark, Ohio, Hillbilly Park served as a communal gathering place from 1946-1966. Over two decades this music park hosted holidays, tractor pulls, auctions and weddings, all the while regularly presenting a who’s who of Bluegrass and Country music. At the ASA’s annual conference in 2018 I plan to give a talk presenting historic research of Hillbilly Park in order to generate discussion of critical regionalism and social theory as applied to Appalachia.