Get ready for the Mountain Heritage Day

From the WCU Public Relations Office

Members of the Cherokee Snowbird stickball team, students and children play a game of "Fish" during Mountain Heritage day. Photo by Kayla Godfrey, 2013

Members of the Cherokee Snowbird stickball team, students and children play a game of “Fish” during Mountain Heritage day, 2013. Photo by Kayla Godfrey.

In just few days the Cullowhee Valley or the intramural field of Western Carolina University will be bustling with sounds of Appalachian music mixed with the sound of the clogging shoes dancing on the wooden stages. The spectators can enjoy the music dancing themselves or enjoying in the variety of food offered around them.

Yup! It is time for the Mountain Heritage Day, Sept. 26. And this year it is their 40th birthday.

Organizers announced that this year, festival-goers can enjoy watching two Cherokee stickball teams will demonstrate the traditional competition that is older than written history. The Hummingbirds team from Cherokee plays at 2 p.m. and — for the first time — the age 11-and-younger Big Cove youth team plays at 11 a.m. To honor Cherokee as an integral part of the tradition, the new festival logo and some of the directional signage at the festival will be written in the Cherokee language.

The annual Mountain Heritage Day 5K will start at 8 a.m. and there is still time to register online – $15 for WCU students and $20 for others. Runners can also register on the day of the race, but the price will be $30. The funds collected from the race go toward an endowed scholarship fund created by Sport Management Association, a student organization which reached its goal last year to make an award to its first recipient, Liberty Cozart. The race should be finished in an hour so that the route may be opened for festival traffic.

This year, a revised parking plan should make it easier for demonstrators and vendors to have access to the festival grounds separately from attendees, diverting their usually-larger vehicles from the traffic flow.

A new site plan for the festival grounds also puts more distance between the performing stages, giving listeners a clearer hearing of performers like Grammy Award-winning David Holt and partner Will McIntyre, old favorite groups like Mountain Faith, Jeff Little Trio, Whitewater Bluegrass Company, the Deitz Family, Roan Mountain Hilltoppers and the Queen Family, as well as newcomers The Buckstankle Boys, the Foxfire Boys, and Woody Pines. A dance floor will be available again for audience dancing or clogging teams, including the Blue Ridge Heritage Cloggers, the Dixie Darlin’ Cloggers and the J Creek Cloggers.

Two recent exhibits in the free-admission Mountain Heritage Center, located in the nearby H.F. Robinson Building, celebrate 125 years of university history and 40 years of Mountain Heritage Day. The university began in a one-room schoolhouse, from which four women and one man graduated three years later. Artifacts ranging from photographs and commencement programs to cheerleader outfits, sports team uniforms and mascot costumes tell the school’s story as it grew. The festival’s exhibit commemorates long-gone events like candidate stump speeches, pet shows, moonshine sniffing and tobacco spitting.

More than 100 booths will offer handmade arts and crafts in juried competition on the festival grounds, sharing space with living history and craft demonstrations; shape-note singing; cooking, canning and baking contests; beard-and-mustache and chainsaw rivalries; an antique auto show; tractor and horse- or mule-drawn wagon rides; plus a tent featuring children’s activities all day. Tempting festival foods – from traditional to historic to ethnic, offered by vendors in trucks and booths – will sustain an entire day’s enjoyment of the opportunities.

Free admission and free parking remain the tradition at Mountain Heritage Day. Visitors are encouraged to bring a blanket or chair, and an umbrella to shed unwanted sunshine or rain. Service animals are welcome, but guests are asked to leave pets at home.