By Julia Duvall
Mountain Heritage Day, the annual celebration of Southern Appalachian culture presented by Western Carolina University, will take place Saturday, Sept. 30, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on campus.
“This family-oriented festival shows how much we value this incredible, beautiful region we call home and its diverse culture and history,” said WCU Chancellor Kelli R. Brown. “I am honored, like the Chancellors who came before me, to continue this heritage celebration gift to our community.”
The music of Mountain Heritage Day, which ranges from bluegrass to folk to gospel, is a vital part of the free and open event which celebrates Southern Appalachian history and culture.
This year’s headline musical act set to perform on the Ingles Blue Ridge Stage is Michael Cleveland and his band Flamekeeper, who will bring a dynamic stage presence and an excellent fiddle-led bluegrass sound. Other performances include the Bluegrass Allstars featuring Audie Blaylock, Marc Pruett, Reed Jones and Darren Nicholson.
The world champion Mars Hill clogging team and Zeb Ross with the J Creek Clogging team will also perform.
In addition to the performances, live entertainment will be provided across the festival grounds in the Jackson County Tourism Balsam Circle Tent and the Running Cedar Springs Children’s Stage. Complete schedules of each stage are available at the festival entrance as well as on the Mountain Heritage Day website.
The festival, which began in 1974, continues its legacy of highlighting traditional folk arts and skills, Cherokee crafts, clogging and storytelling.
More than 175 vendors will be on hand for the festival this year. A wide array of high-quality arts and crafts will be for sale, including baskets, stoneware pottery, quilts, furniture, glassworks, jewelry, leather goods and metal work. Food vendors will offer a variety of festival food, with favorites ranging from funnel cakes to barbecue to homemade ice cream.
Other highlights include the presentation of the Mountain Heritage Awards, given to one individual and one organization annually in honor of achievements in historic preservation and outstanding cultural contributions. The recipient of the 2023 organizational award is the Affrilachian Artist Project and the individual award will be given to Bob Plott.
Living-history demonstrations include fire and forge of blacksmithing, furniture making and corn shuck seat caning. Experts with draft animals will demonstrate traditional skills of harnessing and driving horse and mule-drawn wagons of bygone days. Hard work and ingenuity will be featured in logging skills, copper smithing, wood carving, basketry and flint knapping.
“As co-chair of the Mountain Heritage Day planning committee I can’t wait to see the faces of visitors as they see a craft demonstration or find the perfect handmade work of art for their home,” said Mountain Heritage Center director Amber C. Albert. “The Mountain Heritage Center is a proud longtime programming partner of this event.”
Attendees will enjoy a variety of fun competitions reflecting the history and traditions of the mountains that draw contestants from near and far. Those include the annual 5K that takes participants through WCU’s campus, the Andy Shaw Ford Classic Car Show and the McNeely’s Chainsaw Competition.
The festival goes on, rain or shine. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets for comfortable seating. For more information and the full festival schedule, go to www.mountainheritageday.com.