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As Mountain Heritage Day approaches, festival opportunities grow

When Whitewater Bluegrass Company takes to the Mountain Heritage Day stage on Saturday, Sept. 25, it will mark the 25th time the band has performed at Western Carolina University’s annual fall festival.

“This is a certainly a milestone for us,” said Uncle Ted White, the band’s bassist. “This band had its origins at Western with students picking and singing and being back is a special reminder to us of our roots. Which is what it’s all about for everybody, anyway.”

Mountain Heritage Day, an annual multicultural celebration held on the WCU campus, is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with free admission, free parking and free shuttle service. Renowned as a showcase of bluegrass and mountain music, family activities and the region’s finest arts and crafts, other highlights include presentation of the Mountain Heritage Awards to an individual and an organization in honor of achievements in historic preservation and outstanding cultural contributions. 

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Collection boxes on the grounds placed for donations to support Mountain Heritage Day will this year instead support a WCU Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning initiative to sponsor a house renovation for one of more than 100 families that suffered damage during the recent flooding in Haywood County. It has been estimated that $17,500 would help a family make needed repairs to get back in their home. WCU is hoping to collect enough money to sponsor at least one rebuild.

Mountain Heritage Day 5k

The Mountain Heritage Day 5K is back. The race starts at 8 a.m. at the Stillwell Science building on a route past iconic landmarks, including Alumni Tower. The family-friendly activity is ideal for both advanced runners and casual walkers. Chip timing will be provided by Race Odyssey Events. All proceeds support the Sport Management Association Scholarship Fund. Online registration is now open, with special advanced pre-registration rates. Participants will be asked to adhere to physical distancing guidelines outdoors at check-in and in the start/finish area. Face coverings are required when using restrooms indoors. In lieu of gathering for a post-race awards ceremony, custom handcrafted medals will be shipped directly to the overall winners and age group winners. The first 100 to register are guaranteed a free Mountain Heritage Day 5K T-shirt. Register at

New Performances, Another Exhibitor

An additional handiwork and skills exhibitor recently added to the lineup is Kevin Fountain, who will demonstrate corn grinding and hit and miss engines. Calliope Stage Company will do a 12:30 p.m. performance of “Moonshine and a Gray Duck,” conceived and written by Colin Wasmund with Howard Allman and directed by John Baldwin. A short comedy that explores the clash of culture between Upper Midwest and North Carolina Appalachia, this piece finds joy in the differences of language and colloquialisms and the “culture shock” one can experience when their social sphere is punctured with unfamiliar words and ways of doing things.

Bonus Campus Event

A free and open to the public performance of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by WCU’s School of Stage and Screen will take place at 2 p.m. at the university’s picnic pavilion, located behind the softball field. Directed by Peter Savage, the classic tale takes place deep in a magical forest – not unlike those surrounding Cullowhee – with four runaway lovers, a troupe of outrageous amateur actors, and the feuding king and queen of the fairies spending a wild night in the woods, resulting in tempestuous love triangles, contagious fogs and moonlight revels. This outdoor production runs 80 minutes, with live music by WCU alumnus and old-time musician William Ritter. With general seating, camp chairs and blankets recommended. 


Mountain Heritage Day relies on volunteers, community support and sponsorship from local businesses. Organizers wish to acknowledge the gracious support of Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel and Casino, Pepsi, Jackson County Tourism Development Authority, Republic Services, Andy Shaw Ford, McNeely’s Store and Rental, Tractor Supply and the Sylva Herald.

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