Hunt Mallett (another Founding Member) and I graduated from high school in Asheville, NC in 1973. We had both learned to clog in high school and were surrounded by traditional old time and bluegrass music of Western North Carolina. We brought our love of traditional music and dance to college when we both attended Chapel Hill in the Fall of 1973. My memory is a little cloudy from 30 years but I do remember teaching folks basic clogging steps and working on a routine that we borrowed from an ex-member of the Green Grass Cloggers. It was a lot of fun and we started getting pretty good. The rest of the story about the Apple Chill Festival is old history.

In those early years, many of us were starting out as musicians as well. We played almost as much as we danced and the music and dance were always intertwined as it should be. There were many an all night jams and parties. Hunt will remember some of the Tequila parties we used have. Fiddler’s Grove, Union Grove, et al. Yikes.

We traveled to festivals as often as we could. Often we were camping out and performing. Every now and then we would find a river or lake and there would be mass skinny dipping and partying. That is where the bonds began. Can’t hide a lot when your skinny dipping.

Years later, I traveled and performed with the Green Grass Cloggers along with Hunt Mallet and continued the love of dance and music. In 1978, I moved from Chapel Hill and began Architectural School in Charlotte, NC. I helped found an old time band called “Dr. Doug and his Hip Replacements”. One of our band members was an orthopedic surgeon doing his internship.

After finishing Architectural school and spending about two years as a design/build contractor, I moved to Atlanta to join a large architectural and engineering firm. While I was there I began playing for the large contra-dance groups. I began performing with a band called “Hurt Dog” and then later helped found the Atlanta Swamp Opera. At that time, Bruce Molsky and his wife Audrey (former Green Grass Clogger) were some of my dearest friends in Atlanta and we often enjoyed playing old time music together at jams and parties.

It was in Atlanta and at some of the festivals that I was performing at that I began running into Cajun musicians from Louisiana and forging long lasting love for Louisiana music and dance.

While in Atlanta, I met a girl (Millie Ortego) at a Cajun music weekend in Augusta Heritage Festival in West Virginia. She asked me to perform with her as a dance partner and we traveled all around California, Idaho, Minnesota as well as the New England area riding the tide of the Cajun/Zydeco craze. I got to meet and play with some of the legends of Cajun/Zydeco music and began my love of playing Louisiana music. Dewey Balfa, Tracy Schwarz, Canray Fontenot, Boisec Ardoin and many more helped me along the way.

I moved from Atlanta to Washington, DC to start my own architectural practice and I am still here. When I first moved up to DC I began playing old time music with Earl White, one of my old friends from the Green Grass Cloggers days. We played twin fiddles in a great old time band and performed at the infamous “Captain Whites” in Silver Spring, Maryland.

I also began playing fiddle in a local Cajun Baltimore Band called “ Allons-Zee”. The Cajun music rage was just cooking up and we were performing two dances a month in addition to festivals and parties. I then began a Zydeco band in 1994 called Zydeco Crayz. We continue to perform and have recorded two CDs of our own and have contributed original songs to a Christmas Album and a Baseball Songs Album. I play accordion, fiddle and harmonica in the band and continue to visit Louisiana as often as possible. Our band performed for the US Embassy in Jamaica (yes, they actually flew us down there for a special embassy event). We have also been the opening act for the Neville Brothers at the PepsiCo World Gathering at the Homestead in Virginia. We have also shared the stage with Boozoo Chavis, Keith Frank, Buckwheat Zydeco, Roy Carrier, Beausoleil, and others.

I met my wife (Sandy) at a Cajun dance that I was playing at with Tracy Schwarz and Peter Schwarz. She plays in the band on fiddle, rub board and singing (when she is not being a nurse and saving lives). We have two daughters aged 17 and 15. We have since helped found two other Louisiana bands that we continue to perform with. One is the “Canecutters” (a swingy Louisiana swamp pop and blues and old style zydeco) and the other is “Savoir Faire Cajun Band” (traditional Cajun dance hall music). We still love to dance when we aren’t playing.

I have recently taken up jazz guitar and tenor sax and try to get together with local jazz musicians when I can. Who knows where that may lead? As I celebrate turning 50 this year, I look back to my early years with Apple Chill Cloggers and the friends that were forged there and ponder how lucky I have been to have been a part of this great tradition.

Trent Van Blaricom, AIA
Capitol Design Group
7127 Sanford Court
Annandale, VA 22003