The program began in 2002 with the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. Over the past decade, NDCA has coordinated and funded folk artist presentations on the Empire Builder train in its travels through North Dakota. The program runs between Minot and Williston, ND, and Havre, MT. Live presentations about native cultures, ethnic groups, special places, and local music have entertained countless Amtrak passengers. The response to these programs has been overwhelmingly appreciative and positive. Passengers have stated that they choose specific dates to book travel plans based on the presentation schedule. The program has been nationally recognized for its innovative approach and cooperative efforts in the National Park Service.
The 2015 summer schedule is as follows: Chuck Suchy, June 11-12; Lowell Larsen, Paul Larsen, and John Lardinois Sr., June 13-14; Keith Bear, June 18-19, 27-28, July 9-10, 18-19, 23-24; Gerald Schlag, June 20-21, July 4-5, 30-31; Lowell Larsen and Gene Putnam, June 25-26; and James “Cubby” LaRocque, August 1-2, 6-7. For more information contact Troyd Geist, NDCA Folklorist at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On March 27, 2013, the NDCA was presented with the 2013 National Trails and Rails Partnership Award. The award is given to an organization that has provided superior support to the National Trails and Rails Program. The program is a partnership between Amtrak, the National Park Service and the Texas A&M University Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences. This award is given in recognition of the organizational contributions that have provided outstanding educational opportunities for Amtrak passengers traveling throughout the United States. These partnerships play an essential role in promoting our public lands legacy by making passengers aware of the natural and cultural treasures found in our national parks, state parks, local places of interest, and other special places along the Amtrak routes of America.
Troyd Geist, program coordinator and NDCA Folklorist states, “Our program connects with people from all over the United States as well as from other countries. The traditional artists who perform on the train present a positive face of who we are as North Dakotans to many people who previously had little or no exposure or had negative perceptions of our state. It literally has had people dancing in the aisles during musical performances. What makes the program successful are the many and varied traditional artists who participate and the great staff with the Trails to Rails program as well as people like Craig Hansen, with the National Park Service. It is an honor for our program and partnership to be recognized.”
Some of the artists who have presented through this program include: Mary Louise Defender Wilson, Dakotah storytelling; Debi Rogers, Irish music, singing, and storytelling; Delmar and Linda Ann Falcon, Mitchif fiddle music; Eddie “King” Johnson, Mitchif fiddle music; Preston Schmidt, fiddle music; Keith Bear, Mandan/Hidatsa flute music and storytelling; Gerald Schlag, accordion music; Dan, Bridget, and Owen Jerome, Ojibwe culture and traditions; Robin Carlson, Norwegian traditional arts and storytelling; Judith Simundson, Norwegian music, singing, and storytelling; and Jacob Zerr, accordion music.
This award recognizes the efforts of NDCA to further their goal of protecting and interpreting our nation’s treasured natural and historic sites and stories. The foundation of these partnerships are built from the hard work, dedication and vision of private individuals. This valued assistance has become critical in the current era of federal fiscal accountability.
The award was presented by the United States Department of Interior, National Park Service, represented by Wendy Hart Ross and Craig Hansen of the Knife River Indian Villages NHS, of Stanton, ND.
For more information on the North Dakota Council on the Arts involvement in the Trails to Rails program, please contact Troyd Geist at email@example.com.
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