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Mountain Heritage Day musical performers announced

By Geoff Cantrellwhitewater bluegrass

Whitewater Bluegrass Company

When Mountain Heritage Day makes a triumphant return to the Western Carolina University campus on Saturday, Sept. 25, it will come with a full day of live music.

The annual festival of Southern Appalachian traditions and culture is renowned as a showcase of bluegrass, old-time and traditional music, as well as family activities, vendors and the region’s finest arts and crafts. The 2020 festival was an abbreviated, virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have the perfect lineup for us to get back in front of a live audience. Many of our favorites are returning and we get to welcome some new artists, too,” said Christy Ashe, WCU special events director and festival chair. “WCU will be following COVID-19 protocols and is actively encouraging everyone to get vaccinated, so everyone can return to being together in this celebration.”

Ashe announced the schedule for the Blue Ridge Stage:

  • Summer Brooke and Brayden kick off the music at 10 a.m. Known for leading the award-winning Mountain Faith Band, the brother and sister bluegrass virtuosos are beyond popular and graciously provided the concert for 2020’s Mountain Heritage Day virtual performance.
  • When Whitewater Bluegrass Company start their set at 11 a.m. it will mark a major milestone, as it will be their 25th time playing at Mountain Heritage Day. More or less founded at WCU in 1982, the band blends its own brand of bluegrass, country ballads and mountain swing with down-home humor.
  • At noon, the Apple Blossom Cloggers, a dance troupe of 7 to 9 years old girls, join Whitewater Bluegrass Company for lively clogging demonstration, followed by presentation of the Mountain Heritage Awards at 12:15 p.m. to an individual and organization in recognition of work within Southern Appalachian history, culture and folklore.
  • The Queen Family starts picking at 12:45 p.m. Known as master musicians and experts in regional lore, the Queen Family were honored with the 1999 Mountain Heritage Award and the 2001 Brown-Hudson Award by the North Carolina Folklore Society.
  • Phil and Gaye Johnson at 1:30 p.m. play guitar and sing an acoustic blend of bluegrass, folk and favorites. The prolific songwriters and storytellers from Polk County travel across the country to perform and are among the longest running repeat performers at Mountain Heritage Day.
  • The Grascals, three-time Grammy nominees and twice International Bluegrass Music Association entertainer of the year, perform at 2:15 p.m. The Bailey Mountain Cloggers will join the Grascals at 3:30 p.m. for foot-stamping and high stepping mastery that is a perennial of Mountain Heritage Day.
  • At 3:45 p.m., the Merle Monroe band bring their mix of Bill Monroe-style bluegrass with Merle Haggard’s style of songs of the common man (hence the name) to the stage for their own brand of bluegrass, gospel and traditional country. 

“Mountain Heritage Day allows us to share culture,” said Uncle Ted White of the Whitewater Bluegrass Band. “It is so important that it includes children, so we can keep traditions alive. That is what Mountain Heritage Day does every year, bringing us together and creating a legacy for coming generations.”

There will also be the Circle Tent and the Children’s Tent with continual performances, including workshops, sing-alongs, storytelling, and a community square dance, along with children’s play-party activities. Ann Woodford will bring alive local stories of the African American community; the Deitz Family, who played bluegrass and mountain folk songs at the first festival up until now; the Pressley Girls, an authentic Appalachian duet from Brasstown who have tight harmonies in classic tunes; and Sparky and Rhonda Rucker tell stories of their southern Appalachian roots and the African American component, with Jack Tales, ghost stories, preacher yarns and Br’er Rabbit stories. Will Ritter will play interludes and provide music for the square dancing.

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