Mountain Heritage Day, the annual celebration of Southern Appalachian culture presented by Western Carolina University, takes place on campus Saturday, Sept. 28, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Organizers are expecting potentially record attendance, with a long list of bluegrass, old-time country and traditional music acts performing, including two-time Grammy winner Becky Buller, Summer and Brae (also known as Mountain Faith), the Burnett Sisters, Carolina Blue and Folk Heritage Award winner Bobby McMillon.
Demonstrations of traditional mountain folk arts and skills include Cherokee basketry, wood carving and stone carving, blacksmithing, corn shuck crafts, quilts and working with horses and mules. More than 150 arts and crafts vendors also will be on hand with creations ranging from furniture and jewelry to leather goods and metalwork. Organizers will present cash prizes and awards to artist and craftspeople in four categories: best in show, first place, second place and best booth display.
Other vendors will offer a variety of festival food, with favorites ranging from fry bread, kettle corn and homemade ice cream to funnel cakes and barbecue. A food competition includes categories for canned goods, baked goods and heritage foods conservation. Competition is divided into adult and youth (16 and younger) divisions. Ribbons will be awarded to the top three entrants in each age category, plus a grand champion will be selected in each division.
In special ceremonies at 12:30 p.m., the 2019 Mountain Heritage Awards, given in honor of achievements in historic preservation and outstanding cultural contributions in the region, will be presented to Bill Crawford of Sylva and the Cashiers Historical Society.
Cherokee stickball competition features the “Wa-le-la” Hummingbird Indian Ball Team and the “Kolanvyi” Big Cove Youth Indian Ball Team participating in an ancient sport that resembles a rough and tumble version of lacrosse.
In addition to musical performers on two stages, there are opportunities on the grounds for everyone to join in singing, with a shape-note singing and ballad singing circle. Dance troupes Apple Blossom Cloggers, Cole Mountain Cloggers and the Bailey Mountain Cloggers return and this year a community dance with Brett and Pan Riggs and friends is scheduled.
Before the festival begins, a 5K race organized and hosted by students in WCU’s sports management program takes place on campus. Competitive events during the festival include a chainsaw and timber sports contest, a car and truck show with attendees able to walk among the vehicles and pick favorites.
The festival goes on, rain or shine. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets for comfortable seating. Dogs on leashes are allowed on the grounds. For more information and updates, go to www.mountainheritageday.com.