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Celebration held for legendary KY folk artist Minnie Adkins as she turns 90

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Minnie Adkins is ready to cut the cake at her 90th birthday celebration at the Morehead Conference Center.
Cheri Lawson
/
WEKU
Minnie Adkins is ready to cut the cake at her 90th birthday celebration at the Morehead Conference Center.

Kentucky folk art icon Minnie Adkins turned 90 years old and more than 200 of her family, friends, and fans celebrated with her in Morehead, Kentucky.

Cheri Lawson attended the birthday party and filed this report

“My name is Minnie Adkins and I was born March 13th, 1934.”

That’s well-known whittler and Appalachian folk artist Minnie Adkins. The Elliot County native said she feels blessed to be 90.

“Well, I feel very very humbled to be 90 years old because my family’s all gone and I’m the only one left in my family, and I just feel that the Lord has truly blessed me, and my mission is not filled yet or I would be gone,” explained Adkins.

Dozens of people like Bertha stood in line to wish Minnie Happy Birthday and give her a hug.
Cheri Lawson
/
WEKU
Dozens of people like Bertha stood in line to wish Minnie Happy Birthday and give her a hug.

Over the weekend in downtown Morehead at the conference center at a celebration and ceremony to honor Minnie a crowd of more than 200 people sang Happy Birthday to her.

Sue Rosen, Rita Steinberg, Minnie Adkins, and Carol Butler are having a great time at Minnie's 90th birthday party.
Cheri Lawson
/
WEKU
Sue Rosen, Rita Steinberg, Minnie Adkins, and Carol Butler are having a great time at Minnie's 90th birthday party.

Dozens of her friends and fans stood in line near a large birthday sign framed with gold balloons that read ‘Cheers to 90 years.’ They all waited to talk with the folk-art icon and wish her a happy birthday.

People at the celebration traveled from as far away as Pennsylvania and Georgia to celebrate Minnie. Many of her well-wishers including Mike Norris, Carol Butler, Adrian Swain, Brenda Groff, Dennis Voigt, Jim Gary Phillips, and Vanessa Maggard shared how Minnie has inspired them.

Minnie shares a laugh with her good friend and colleague Mike Norris. Minnie's son, Mike looks on.
Cheri Lawson
/
WEKU
Minnie shares a laugh with her good friend and colleague Mike Norris. Minnie's son, Mike looks on.

“Minnie Adkins is an artist like none other and she’s a friend like none other. She’s kind, considerate, sensitive, the most generous person in the world,” said Mike Norris.

It’s a super blessing to see her and the love that she pours out to everyone,” said Brenda Groff.

“I just love her stories that she tells,” reported Dennis Voigt.

Brenda Groff and Dennis Voigt pose with Minnie for her birthday.
Cheri Lawson
/
WEKU
Brenda Groff and Dennis Voigt pose with Minnie for her birthday.

“Creative and inquiring and curious. And, you know, the world is still an open book for her,” said Adrian Swain.

“She was an inspiration for me at one time and then again when I had hard times, she was there to encourage me to keep doing what I do,” explained Jim Gary Phillips.

“ She was so generous with her time with our students,” said Vanessa Maggard.

She is a rock star in Kentucky and a legend in the folk art world. And we love her,” exclaimed Carol Butler.

I first met Minnie three years ago at her home in Elliot County. We sat out on her porch so I could see how she whittled.

The Eastern Kentucky folk artist is humble about the recognition she’s received over the years, including an award of distinction from the Folk Art Society of America and Morehead State University’s Treasure Award.

Minnie holds a possum she carved. It was auctioned off for 750 dollars . Minnie donated that money to the Kentucky Folk Art Center.
Cheri Lawson
/
WEKU
Minnie holds a possum she carved. It was auctioned off for 750 dollars . Minnie donated that money to the Kentucky Folk Art Center.

Minnie tells why she taught herself to whittle when she was just 10 years old.

“Well, out of necessity. As a child, I had to whittle. If I had toys to play with, then I had to make them. And find something to play with. So, I learned that way,” explained Adkins.

Eventually, the art form led to a lifelong career of carving whimsical animals like roosters, possums, tigers, and other colorful creatures.

Her work is featured in permanent collections around the country in places like the Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Huntington Museum of Art, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and the Kentucky Folk Art Center.

Kentucky Folk Art Center's Tammy Stone presents Minnie's carving to Jim Gary Phillips. After a ceremony to honor Minnie the carving of the possum was auctioned off.
Cheri Lawson
Kentucky Folk Art Center's Tammy Stone presents Minnie's carving to Jim Gary Phillips. After a ceremony to honor Minnie the carving of the possum was auctioned off.

Administrative Support Specialist at The Kentucky Folk Art Center, Tammy Stone, organized the birthday celebration. She said Minnie has several pieces including her signature fox featured at the folk-art center.

“Minnie started with the Kentucky Folk Art Center back in the late 80s and she has just been instrumental in helping other artists get started and just to know Minnie has been the best. She is someone that if anyone meets her, they will automatically fall in love with her. She’s a sweetheart and she’s always going out of the way to help other people,” said Stone.

During the celebration, Minnie’s son Mike, offered a blessing and spoke about his mom’s strong faith.

He said he and the family enjoy how his mom is always whittling.

“Mom never stops. She whittles. That’s her thing. Yeah, we’re so happy with the folk art and the joy it’s brought so many people. It has and it never ceases to amaze me and especially mom being 90 years old,” said Mike Adkins.

Minnie Adkins' son Mike enjoys the ceremony to honor his mom. Minnie's great-grandson Rylin is having fun too.
Cheri Lawson
/
WEKU
Minnie Adkins' son Mike enjoys the ceremony to honor his mom. Minnie's great-grandson Rylin is having fun too.

To complete the ceremony folk artist Jim Gary Phillips auctioned off one of Minnie’s carvings. The carved possum with its babies brought 750 dollars Minnie donated to the Kentucky Folk Art Center.

Minnie Adkins said she whittles 5 days a week and the spry folk artist has no plans of retiring.

“Oh , I’m gonna keep on whittling until I can’t whittle no more.”

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Cheri is a broadcast producer, anchor, reporter, announcer and talk show host with over 25 years of experience. For three years, she was the local host of Morning Edition on WMUB-FM at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Cheri produced and hosted local talk shows and news stories for the station for nine years. Prior to that, she produced and co-hosted a local talk show on WVXU, Cincinnati for nearly 15 years. Cheri has won numerous awards from the Public Radio News Directors Association, the Ohio and Kentucky Associated Press, and both the Cincinnati and Ohio chapters of the Society for Professional Journalists.
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