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WCU plans virtual concert by Mountain Faith on traditional day for Mountain Heritage Day

By Geoff Cantrell

Summer Bray and Mountain Faith

 Summer Brooke (left) and the Mountain Faith Band will perform a virtual concert Saturday, Sept. 26.

With no Mountain Heritage Day on the calendar for 2020, Western Carolina University will still mark the date with a virtual concert by Summer Brooke and the Mountain Faith Band on Saturday, Sept. 26, beginning at 7 p.m.

“While we made the very difficult decision to cancel this year’s festival, we still wanted to find a way to celebrate our mountain heritage,” said Stacy MacGregor, chair of WCU’s annual celebration of Southern Appalachian culture. “Mountain Heritage Day is a such an important tradition to our campus and our region. Each year we have the chance to come together as a community and celebrate everything that makes our area so special. Even though we can’t host the festival in person this year, that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate and honor the day from the comfort of our homes. And nothing tells the story of our mountain heritage better than music.”

The special virtual performance can be viewed from the Mountain Heritage Day Facebook page and the university’s YouTube channel, with a recorded version available Monday, Sept. 28, on the website.

Summer Brooke and the Mountain Faith Band are perennial favorites at Mountain Heritage Day. They received the 2015 Mountain Heritage Award, given annually by WCU in honor of achievements in historic preservation and outstanding cultural contributions. The award-winning ensemble began in 2001 from their home in Jackson County, playing bluegrass-gospel. In 2015 the band appeared on “America’s Got Talent,” reaching the semifinal round, which brought national exposure. The International Bluegrass Music Association named them as the emerging artist of the year for 2016.

Also, throughout the day on Sept. 26, WCU social media platforms leading up to the concert will feature images of the 45 prior festivals, examples of local mountain residents at traditional work and play, and a sampling of vendors’ previous experiences. Some of the scheduled artisans include:

  • Joel Queen crafts Native American pottery
  • Bea Hensley blacksmiths at his forge
  • Kathi Littlejohn shares the Cherokee story “Spearfinger”
  • Lloyd Arneach brings a Cherokee tale to life
  • Ann Miller Woodford tours her African American exhibit “All God’s Children”

The daylong free, family event began as Founders’ Day on Oct. 26, 1974, at the inauguration ceremony of Chancellor H.F. “Cotton” Robinson and became known as Mountain Heritage Day the following year. More recently, it was named as one of the top 20 festivals in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society.

Typically, around 15,000 visitors experience this one-of-a-kind event, with constant music and storytelling performances, living history demonstrations and Cherokee stickball games, with more than 140 vendors with arts and crafts and festival food for sale.

“We look forward to everyone joining us for the livestream concert,” MacGregor said. “And we look forward to being able to celebrate in person again next year.”

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