Tradition bearers in Maryland have received two sets of awards that recognize contributions to folk and traditional arts. The ALTA/Heritage Awards are sponsored by Maryland Traditions, the state folklife program. The National Heritage Fellowships are sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts
Founded in 2007 as the ALTA Awards (Achievement in Living Traditions and Arts), they were re-branded in 2016 as the Heritage Awards. Given annually, these awards recognize outstanding contributions to the vitality of Maryland folklife in three categories: Person/People, Place, and Tradition.
The ALTA Awards were created to commemorate Dr. Alta Schrock (1911-2001). Schrock founded the Spruce Forest Artisan Village, Penn Alps Restaurant and Craft Shop, and more than a dozen community groups in western Maryland, setting a standard for what it means to support living cultural traditions. In addition to award recipients, the awards honor her legacy.
The National Heritage Fellowships are the highest honor in the folk and traditional arts in the United States. Since the first class of recipients were recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1983, many Marylanders have received the award.
Materials related to these awards are located in Collection 116 and Collection 120 of the Maryland Traditions Archive.
Anna Holmes of North Brentwood (Prince George’s County) was a beloved educator, quilter, family historian and community activist.
Penn Alps & Spruce Forest Artisan Village in Grantsville (Garrett County) continues to safeguard Appalachian culture.
The National Outdoor Show promotes the traditions of Dorchester County’s marshes since 1938 and is the home of the International Muskrat Skinning Contest.
The United Methodist Women of Smith Island (Somerset County) have perpetuated stories, songs and everyday lifeways for generations.
J. Patrick's, once located in Baltimore City's Locust Point, was the region's main hub for celebrating Irish music and culture.
The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival fills the Howard County Fairground with sheep breeders, cooks, textile artists and every aspect of sheep fancying.
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.
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.
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.
The descendants of Nathaniel “Uncle Nace” Hopkins hold the annual Emancipation Day celebrations in Trappe (Talbot County) since 1867.
Globe Poster opened in Baltimore in 1927 to produce show posters for vaudeville acts, carnivals, burlesque and movie theaters.
Jousting is one of the oldest rural traditions of the Mid-Atlantic Region and is the Official State Sport.
Rich Smoker is a master decoy carver who lives in Marion (Somerset County).
Patterson Bowling Center Duckpin Bowling Lanes (Baltimore City) is the oldest duckpin bowling alley in the world.
The Singing & Praying Bands of Maryland (Eastern and Western Shore) are an African-American devotional/musical tradition that is unique to Delmarva.
The Carroll County Ramblers are a family bluegrass group based in Taneytown (Carroll County).
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.
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.
Wallace M. Yater is a master blacksmith living in Boonsboro (Washington County).
Piscataway Homelands: People Culture and Traditions of Prince George’s, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties.
The Oyster Fritters of the Sharptown Firemen’s Carnival (Wicomico County) are an enduring community tradition of the Eastern Shore.
Bernard “Lefty” Kreh (Baltimore County) is a master fly fisherman, guide, journalist, photographer and author.
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.
The Painted Screens of Baltimore is one of the most iconic and well-known living traditions unique to the city.
Captain Kermit "Robert Lee" Travers (Dorchester County) is reputedly the only surviving African-American skipjack captain active within the Chesapeake Bay Region.
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.
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.
Chum Ngek (Montgomery County) is a master of traditional Cambodian music and is the musical backbone of Cambodian communities in Maryland and beyond.
Trimper's Rides and Amusements of Ocean City is the oldest family-owned amusement park in the nation, having opened its doors in 1893.
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.
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.
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.
The Skipjack Race and Festival of Deal Island (Somerset County) commemorates the skipjack, the traditional oystering and crabbing vessel of the Chesapeake Bay.
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.
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.
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.
Jay Armsworthy (St. Mary’s County) is the bluegrass musician, promoter, organizer, and radio host whose efforts are known throughout and beyond his home place of southern Maryland.
The Arch Social Club (Baltimore City) has been a central location for generations of African American community and culture in the city since 1912.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Phil Wiggins of Montgomery County is a master harmonica player in the tradition of the Piedmont blues, a delicate, lyrical style of blues originating in Black communities in the eastern United States in the 1920s and 1930s. Phil has taught thousands to both play and value the Piedmont blues and is the recipient of many awards, including the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.
Ola Belle Reed
Appalachian Banjo Picker/Singer
Rising Sun, MD
Cambodian Court Dancer/Choreographer
Silver Spring, MD
Greek Byzantine Chanter
Cambodian Traditional Dancers and Musicians
Fort Washington, MD
Folklorist, Advocate and Presenter
Silver Spring, MD / Trade, TN
Cambodian Musician and Teacher
African-American Musical Innovator (Go-Go)
Photo Documentarian, Author, and Curator
Baltimore and Washington, DC
Musician, Cultural Scholar, and Advocate
Baltimore & Silver Spring / Lexington, VA
Piedmont Blues Songster
Dobro guitar player
The Holmes Brothers
Blues, Gospel and R&B
Rosedale, MD/Saluda, VA
Singing and Praying Bands of Maryland and Delaware
African-American Sacred Music
A. Michael "Mike" Vlahovich
Shipwright and Maritime Culture Advocate
St. Michaels, MD/Tacoma, Washington
Button Accordion, Irish music
Piedmont blues harmonica
Takoma Park, MD
Mama Linda Goss
Marion Station, MD
* Bess Lomax Hawes Award recipient. The Bess Lomax Hawes Award recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to the preservation and awareness of cultural heritage.