True roots

As early as noon on Friday, Sept. 23 vendors began setting up for one of Western Carolina University’s largest events of the year.

Costume Contest Participants

Food and craft vendors as well as demonstrators come from all different areas to share their trade with festival visitors.  Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina are just a few states people travel from to sell their merchandise.

Many of the participants reserve Mountain Heritage Day on their calendar every year.  Visitors come from miles away to enjoy a day in Southern Appalachian Mountains.

“Some of our visitors come in from upstate South Carolina, upstate Georgia, and East Tennessee” says Scott Philyaw, Director of the Mountain Heritage Center.

Bill Nichols

Bill Nichols, the Master of Ceremonies for Mountain Heritage Day makes this event a part of his calendar every year.

“I’ve been 36 of the 37 years.  I missed the second one,” Says Nichols.  When asked what his favorite part of the festival Nichols said seeing all the people again.  “It’s just like family.”

Several families make it a tradition to compete in the heritage costume contest every year.  Making and wearing the costumes to the festival is considered a family affair.  “We make the girls different dresses every year” says one proud mom of four girls and a boy, who compete in the contest annually.

For some students, they are just beginning a tradition of visiting the festival every year.  Haley Bridges, a first time visitor, plans to visit the festival again and share it with her family in the future.

A third generation craftsmen shares his trade with visitors at Mountain Heritage Day

You can feel the authenticity as you go from booth to booth visiting vendors and seeing their trades first hand.  You can hear banjos, mandolins, and guitars being strummed and picked, creating traditional blue grass music.  Mountain Heritage Day has earned a reputation over the years as a place you can visit and experience true heritage and tradition.

“Heritage is something that don’t change. Tradition is something that don’t change.  Anything contemporary changes on a daily basis.  Heritage and tradition doesn’t change,” Nichols explains.

Mountain Heritage Day is a tradition to many WCU students, alumni, and community members.  Now make it a tradition for you.