Suzanne Bagony is Swappin' Meetin' Honoree
Suzanne Bagonyremembers well her introduction to the Kingdom Come Swappin Meetin. She had been on the payroll of Southeast Kentucky Community amp; Technical College all of two weeks in 1990 when she was thrown into the frenzy that goes with the preparation for the festival. I got my feet wet and just kept getting them wetter, she said, breaking into a hearty laugh.
Its a crisp autumn morning as she speaks from her home in Lynch. The leaves are beginning to fall, cascading across the yards of the well-kept homes of the small town located in eastern Harlan County. In the distance, Black Mountain, the highest peak in Kentucky, looms guardian-like over the hamlet.
Bagony smiles as she reminisces about her involvement with the local arts festival which, over the years, has developed into one of the foremost events of its type across the region and the state. Now in its 46th year, the Kingdom Come Swappin Meetin is poised once more to take the stage for a command appearance on October 1-2 that will be held on the Cumberland campus of Southeast.
Beginning with that first festival she worked 20 years ago, and up until the 2009 event, she has had a key role in ensuring that the event entertained, educated and dazzled the hundreds of folks who turn out on the first weekend of October.
For her tireless work in making the event such a success, she will be honored as the 2010 Kingdom Come Swappin Meetin Honoree during a ceremony scheduled for 11 a.m. October 2. The ceremony will be held on the stage erected on the porch area of Falkenstine Hall.
How wonderful it is to be able to honor Suzanne in this way, said SKCTC President Bruce Ayers. Suzanne worked hard to make the event special and to have a uniqueness about it. The Swappin Meetin has matured over the years into a top-flight festival; its the hard work done by those behind the scenes like Suzanne who need to receive much acknowledgment.
Bagony, a native of Lynch, worked for the college almost 20 years and retired last summer. She began her employment at the college working in the Office of Continuing Education. Later on, she was manager of the schools external education programs.
As she noted, she got her feet wet with her first festival back in 1990, and then took on the leadership role a year later running the event for three years.
Those years in the early 1990s found the festival operating at two separate sites, the campus and in downtown Cumberland. The two venues were needed as construction of the Edsel Godbey Appalachian Center was going on and space on the campus was minimal.
It was a bit overwhelming to have to plan for two locations, she said, but we pulled it off, and the Swappin Meetin continued to run smoothly.
In the years she was the festival coordinator, she added new exhibits and increased the number of food vendors, all of which made the festival more attractive and charming. After stepping aside, she continued to make a contribution working with the Pickles, Jams and Jellies Contest, assisting her sister, Anne Carr, with the quilt contest and exhibiton and at times, being called at the last moment to procure grit corn for use in the shelling display.
She and her sister, who retired over the summer after teaching English at the college 40 years, would attend a variety of local and regional arts festivals and glean ideas that would often be implemented at the Kingdom Come Swappin Meetin.
We would travel around and see what was going on at the other festivals. We quickly came to realize that our event was as good or superior to many we attended. Ours is also a free event with free parking; many festivals charge, so that made us unique and much more appealing, more accommodating, she said.
Bagony, who is also a registered nurse, wore many hats during her time at Southeast. She headed the colleges continuing education program, taught drivers education classes as well as CPR classes to hundreds of students. And while she enjoyed her varied and sometimes hectic job at the college, she found time to work diligently to make the Swappin Meetin a success.
I had a good career at Southeast, I was thankful for the chance to make a contribution to my community and to the college, my alma mater, she said. My association with the Kingdom Come Swappin Meetin is something I take much pride in, but the event is only a success due to the hours of work the faculty, staff and students give in making this celebration of our Appalachian culture the impressive and exciting event it has become.