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Asheville, North Carolina News

WCU’s 37th Annual Mountain Heritage Day Sept. 24

CULLOWHEE, NC – The traditional folkways of the Southern Appalachian Mountains will once again take center stage as the Western Carolina University community presents the 37th annual Mountain Heritage Day on Saturday, Sept. 24.

WCU’s fall festival features a variety of arts and crafts, music, clogging, folk arts, contests and activities that is hard to find in a one-day event, said festival coordinator Trina Royar of WCU’s Mountain Heritage Center.

All Mountain Heritage Day activities, including stage performances, will take place between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., with the exception of registration for the woodcutting contest, which starts at 9 a.m. This year’s festival will be held on fields behind the Cordelia Camp Building, in parking lots and grassy areas around the Camp Building, and in the nearby Mountain Heritage Center, which is located on the ground floor of H.F. Robinson Administration Building.


Visitors at this year’s Mountain Heritage Day will find nearly 100 booths of juried arts and crafts, providing a perfect opportunity for local residents to get in some early holiday shopping, Royar said. Items for sale will include basketry, ceramics, fiber work, glasswork, jewelry, metalwork, paintings, pottery and woodwork.

About 25 food vendors also are signed up to participate in the festival, offering products ranging from barbecue, hamburgers and chicken-on-a-stick to fried pickles, chocolate-dipped cheesecake and Cherokee frybread.


The traditional Cherokee game of stickball has been a favorite attraction for festival visitors in recent years, and the Snowbird Stickball Team from Graham County will make its second appearance at Mountain Heritage Day to demonstrate that ancient sport at 11 a.m.

Another Native American tradition will be featured at 1 p.m., when team members will join with their female associates in playing the courtship game of “Fish.” The team also will demonstrate the use of Cherokee blowguns at 3 p.m.


For fans of traditional music and clogging, life doesn’t get much better than the two main stages of Mountain Heritage Day, which will offer continuous free entertainment from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The newly renamed Balsam and Blue Ridge stages will present many types of traditional music ranging from traditional and contemporary bluegrass to old-time, gospel and folk music.

The high-energy performances by local clogging teams are always a crowd favorite.The high-energy performances by local clogging teams are always a crowd favorite.

Clogging fans will want to check out performances by the Blue Ridge Hi-Steppers, Fines Creek Flatfooters and Dixie Darlins, plus this year’s festival will present an audience participation clogging demonstration led by well-known clogging instructor Bill Nichols and his daughter, Simone Nichols Pace, at 2:45 p.m. on the Blue Ridge Stage.

Festival music won’t be limited to the two stages. Visitors will have an opportunity to see some rapid-fire picking up close and personal at the Circle Tent, which will provide a music workshop type of experience. An 11 a.m. Fiddle Circle will feature John Duncan and Summer McMahan, and a 1:30 p.m. Banjo Circle will show off the picking talents of Annie Fain Liden, Steve Sutton and Charles Wood.

Other Circle Tent activities include a 10 a.m. presentation on “Jackson County People and Places” by the Jackson County Historical Society, a 12:30 p.m. Poetry Circle featuring local writers Thomas Rain Crowe, Barbara Duncan and Brent Martin, and a 3 p.m. Ballad Circle with the Deitz Family, Gaye Johnson and Jeanette Queen Schrock.

Other musical performances that have been a part of every Mountain Heritage Day will take place at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., when singers from around the region will gather to demonstrate the sacred mountain tradition of shaped-note singing. The singing will take place in the gymnasium adjacent to the Camp Building, with participants singing from the “Sacred Harp” and “Christian Harmony” hymnals.


WCU’s museum of Appalachian culture, the Mountain Heritage Center, will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mountain Heritage Day to allow festival visitors to view its exhibits and displays. The museum also will host a free performance of “The Liars Bench” Southern Appalachian variety show from 1:30 to 3 p.m.

“The Liars Bench” was founded by Sylva writer and storyteller Gary Carden in June 2010.  The inspiration for the show came from Carden’s own childhood in Sylva, when he was one of many children who were entertained by listening to the town elders’ tall tales and jokes at the local “liars bench.”

“I started ‘The Liars Bench’ because I saw the culture and tradition that I’d grown up with slipping away,” Carden said. “It bothered me because I thought that a lot of the things were disappearing that contained the most significant facts about who we were as a people, and so I decided that I could at least showcase it, maybe keep it alive a little bit, maybe develop an appreciation for it from people who’d never experienced it.”

For its first year, the shows were presented in Sylva, but recently the cast has moved “The Liars Bench” to the Mountain Heritage Center auditorium for its monthly presentations.

The Mountain Heritage Day show will include Carden telling stories and reading excerpts from his plays, Cherokee gospel singer Garfield Long and three Liars Bench regulars – claw-hammer guitarist Paul Iarussi, singer-songwriter Barbara Duncan and singer-humorist Dave Waldrop.

“‘The Liars Bench’ is a unique blend of culturally accurate mountain Americana with traditional Southern Appalachian entertainment for everyone,” Carden said. “We attempt to treat Appalachian culture with integrity and authenticity, and to be an accurate reflection of the southern highlanders and their ways.”


Mountain Heritage Day organizers continue their emphasis on providing activities for children, and the festival Children’s Tent will provide fun and educational sessions all day.

Youngsters can learn to make old-fashioned toys and take part in other heritage activities beginning at 10 a.m., and then at 11:40 a.m., Franklin bagpiper Jean Hayes will present an introduction to bagpipe playing, then lead a procession to the Blue Ridge Stage for a 12:10 p.m. awards ceremony.

Musical activities geared toward children will be held through the afternoon and will feature the Whitewater Bluegrass Co., the Deitz Family, Phil and Gaye Johnson, Ellie Grace and Carol Rifkin.


Throughout its history, Mountain Heritage Day always has been a showcase for the authentic folk arts and skills of the mountain region. This year will be no exception, with demonstrations ranging from Cherokee doll-making to sorghum molasses-making from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

As part of festival activities, Peter Koch, educational associate at the Mountain Heritage Center, will demonstrate the loading and firing of a black powder flintlock rifle at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

A folk arts demonstration of draft horses and mules at work will be presented by Curtis Allison of Webster and Dwayne Franks of the Little Canada community in Jackson County. As part of that demonstration, Allison and Franks will be offering wagon rides to children attending the festival.


Area residents who own vintage automobiles will be driving them to Mountain Heritage Day to show them off in the festival auto show, which will begin at 10 a.m.

Some festival attendees will arrive on the WCU campus dressed in their best traditional mountain outfits with plans to enter traditional attire contests held for both children and adults, while some of the male visitors who have been dodging the razor for a while will want to enter the beard and moustache competition. Those contests will begin about 12:20 p.m. on the Blue Ridge Stage.

Always a spectator favorite at Mountain Heritage Day, the woodcutting contest, with chain saws and crosscut saws, will begin at 10 a.m. in a grassy area at the corner of Centennial Drive and University Way.

Entries from the festival traditional foods contest will be on display all day, with the winners recognized at 11:30 a.m. on the Balsam Stage, along with the winning vendors from the festival arts and crafts competition.

Also, as is the custom at every Mountain Heritage Day, WCU will present its Mountain Heritage Awards for 2011 to one individual and one organization in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the preservation or interpretation of the history and culture of Southern Appalachia. That presentation will take place at 12:10 p.m. on the Blue Ridge Stage.


Mountain Heritage Day goes on, rain or shine, and admission and parking are free. Pets are not allowed on festival grounds, but service animals are welcome. Festival attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets for comfortable seating. Shuttles operate throughout the day, with stops at designated locations.

For more information about Mountain Heritage Day, go to MountainHeritageDay.com on the Web or call 828-227-7129.



9 a.m. – Registration begins for woodcutting contest

10 a.m. – Woodcutting contest begins; festival booths open, offering arts, crafts and food; antique auto show begins; demonstrations of folk arts and skills begin; Mountain Heritage Center opens

10:30 a.m. – Exhibition of black-powder shooting and “Sacred Harp” shaped-note sing begin

11 a.m. – Exhibition of Cherokee stickball begins

11:30 a.m. – Recognition of arts and crafts awards, and food contest winners, at Balsam Stage

12:10 p.m. – Presentation of Mountain Heritage Awards, traditional attire contests for children and adults, and beard and moustache contest, all on Blue Ridge Stage

1 p.m. – Exhibition of Cherokee courtship game “Fish” begins

1:30 p.m. – “Christian Harmony” shaped-note sing begins; presentation of “The Liars Bench” show begins in the Mountain Heritage Center

2:30 p.m. – Exhibition of black-powder shooting

3 p.m. – Exhibition of Cherokee blowguns begins

4 p.m. – Mountain Heritage Center closes

5 p.m. – Festival closes


(Rodney Sutton, master of ceremonies)

10 a.m. – Hawk Tawodi Brown

10:30 a.m. – Cherokee Traditional Dance Group

10:40 a.m. – Hominy Valley Boys

11:10 a.m. – Blue Ridge Hi-Steppers (clogging)

11:30 a.m. – Recognition of arts and crafts awards, and food contest winners

11:40 a.m. – Deitz Family

12:15 p.m. – Jerry and Paul Wilson

12:55 p.m. – Spring Chickens

1:15 p.m. – Fines Creek Flatfooters (clogging)

1:40 p.m. – Queen Family

2:20 p.m. – Woolly Jumpers

3 p.m. – Heritage Alive! Mountain Youth Talent winners

3:45 p.m. – Blue Eyed Girl

4:20 p.m. – Sweet Tater Band


(10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

“Migration of the Scotch-Irish People” – Permanent exhibit focusing on some of the first settlers to the mountains. A new exhibit update explores the tension between religion and lawbreaking as expressed by the temperance movement and moonshining.

“Qualla Arts and Crafts”Celebrates the 65th anniversary of this craft co-op in Cherokee. This exhibit features the skill and craftsmanship of Cherokee artisans.

“The Carolina Mountains: Photography of Margaret Morley” Sixty compelling images reveal glimpses of life in western North Carolina in the early 1900s.

“Progress of an Idea” Permanent exhibit on the development of Western Carolina University, its local origins and evolving mission, with a special focus on music at WCU.

“Jesse Stalcup: Craftsman and Builder” – Exhibit of handcrafted furniture from the early 1900s.


(Bill Nichols, master of ceremonies)

10 a.m. – Mountain Faith

10:30 a.m. – Stoney Creek Boys

10:45 a.m. – Dixie Darlins (clogging)

11 a.m. – Whitewater Bluegrass Co.

11:45 a.m. – Anne Lough

12:10 p.m. – Presentation of Mountain Heritage Awards, traditional attire contests for children and adults, and beard and moustache contest

12:30 p.m. – Phil and Gaye Johnson

1 p.m. – Buncombe Turnpike

1:45 p.m. – Tried Stone Gospel Choir

2:15 p.m. – Stoney Creek Boys

2:30 p.m. – Blue Ridge Hi-Steppers (clogging)

2:45 p.m. – Clogging demonstration with Bill Nichols and Simone Nichols Pace

3 p.m. – Wild Hog Band

3:30 p.m. – Five O’Clock Shadows

4 p.m. – Paul’s Creek


(10 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

Curtis Allison and Dwayne Franks – horses and mules

Lori and Chuck Anderson – corn shuck crafts and broom-making

Cassie Dickson – spinning and flax culture

Nancy, John Henry and Johnnie Ruth Maney – Cherokee pottery, beadwork and doll-making

William Rogers – blacksmithing

Larry Stout – sorghum molasses-making

R.O. Wilson – logging skills

Max Woody – chair-making


(Phil Jamison, moderator for musical circles)

10 a.m. – Presentation on “Jackson County People and Places” by the Jackson County Historical Society

11 a.m. – Fiddle Circle with John Duncan and Summer McMahan

12:30 p.m. – Poetry Circle with Thomas Rain Crowe, Barbara Duncan and Brent Martin

1:30 p.m. – Banjo Circle with Annie Fain Liden, Steve Sutton and Charles Wood

3 p.m. – Ballad Circle with the Deitz Family, Gaye Johnson and Jeanette Queen Schrock


10 a.m. – Heritage toys and activities

11:40 a.m. – Jean Hayes with an introduction to bagpipes and parade

12:30 p.m. – Whitewater Bluegrass Co. presents play party games

1 p.m. – Deitz Family

1:30 p.m. – Phil and Gaye Johnson

2 p.m. – Ellie Grace

2:30 p.m. – Carol Rifkin

3 p.m. – Heritage toys and activities

Mountain Heritage Day will include two demonstrations of black-powder shooting.Mountain Heritage Day will include two demonstrations of black-powder shooting


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