We look forward to seeing you on Saturday, September 30, 2023 in Cullowhee, North Carolina.
Mountain Heritage Day is organized and hosted by Western Carolina University as its annual gift to the community. The festival is held on campus at WCU's Intramural Field. You can enter the campus off of NC 107 and follow signs to on-campus parking options. A shuttle service provided by WCU's CatTran will be available from parking areas across campus to the event site.
Today, Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Day is well-established and broadly recognized as the premier event for Southern Appalachian music, arts and crafts, dance and culture.
It began as a strong event that proved so popular and filled such a community need, that WCU made sure it continued. Now preparing for its 48th year, it has developed with each successive festival.
Origins can be traced back to Founders Day celebrations in October 1974 at the inauguration ceremony of Chancellor H.F. “Cotton” Robinson. Compared to current festivals, it was a relatively humble affair. Barbecue, some quare dancing and bluegrass, all held in the foyer of the Belk Building. It became known as Mountain Heritage Day the following year and was built upon community support, volunteer work and a direct relationship to WCU’s burgeoning Mountain Heritage Center.
The early years were steered by Doug Davis, a member of WCU’s professional development staff from 1966 until his retirement in 1992 as assistant vice chancellor for student development.
Having first served on the committee that planned the inauguration of Robinson, Davis was chosen to lead the new Mountain Heritage Day committee in 1976 and initiate the Mountain Heritage Awards. He would go on to serve on the committee for the next 18 years and actively supported the event until he passed away in April 2017 at 92 years old.
The university, which always holds its doors open to the community through programs, activities and events, considers Mountain Heritage Day as a special occasion that is both a showcase for the region and a special gift to neighbors from far and near. The event has always been free, thanks to sponsorship from local businesses and organizations.
The now nationally famous festival features old-time mountain and bluegrass music, Cherokee stickball games, competitions and awards, storytelling and clogging, more music and living history demonstrations. Keeping the emphasis on family are children’s activities like sack races, free wagon rides and hayrides, and hundreds of booths of regional arts and crafts, and vendors offering ethnic, heritage and festival food.