Dillsboro welcomes spring with Habitat for Humanity Bloom and Build

Local stands and sponsors. Photo by: John Macewen

The third annual Spring Bloom and Build festival brought thousands to the Dillsboro, North Carolina train depot on an unseasonably warm April 1. The festival was sponsored by Habitat for Humanity of Macon and Jackson County, along with students taking the Hospitality and Tourism 436 class – Tourism Planning and Development of WCU.

Bloom and Build is a family-oriented event that offers good food, craft beer, live music, a silent auction, children’s activities, gardening demonstrations and a pop-up Habitat for Humanity ReStore, along with a variety of local stands. The festival benefits the 24-year-old Habitat for Humanity of Macon and Jackson Counties, which celebrated completion of its 20th house in November 2015.

As festival-goers perused an array of local art and fresh food under the encouragement of live music, the regional branch of Habitat for Humanity had reason to rejoice. Although festival admission was free of charge for vendors as well as the general public, corporate sponsors pledged to donate the day’s profit from their respective businesses to the home-building organization. It’s money that’s raised through fundraising events – like this one- that allow Habitat, a non-profit, to provide a safe place to live for the community’s needy. And the money isn’t going to a place you’ve never heard of for people you’ve never seen; at the Macon and Jackson branch, these funds go not only to people with the same area code, but often the same zip code.

Rick Westerman, director of Habitat for Humanity of Macon and Jackson County, has worked alongside Dr. Bill Richmond, professor of Entrepreneurship and the WCU founder of Habitat for Humanity, for three years now to make festivals like this happen. Together, they have built a team that brings awareness throughout both Macon and Jackson counties and its surrounding areas.

“The primary reason for the festival is to raise awareness to the community about Habitat,” said Richmond.

Hear some more from Richmond on how the collaboration was developed for this festival. 

Some sponsors of Bloom and Build 2017 included Walmart & Polly Cruz, Integra Bank, Lowes, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, Mountain Top, Noah’s Ark, Clark & Co, Full Spectrum Farms, WCU College of Business H&T Program, Lee’s Wine Depot, Gooder Grafixs and Jennings Builders Supply. The earnings donated by these companies will benefit construction and outreach efforts in both Jackson and Swain counties.

“We are working with the restore in Macon and Jackson County to get donations of things that people need like couches, tables, chairs, to be sold to a local area at a cheaper price so they can afford it,” John Macewen, WCU student of Hospitality and Tourism.

At noon, a Great Smoky Mountain Railroad train from Bryson City stopped in town. Then engine stopped at the train station in Dillsboro, letting off 201 passengers to enjoy the sights and sounds of Bloom and Build. Around 2,000 people in total are estimated to have visited the festival.

While festivals and community activities are an integral part of Habitat’s day-to-day existence, the organization stresses that events like Bloom and Build are only the first piece of a much larger puzzle. To most, festivals are a weekend escape from life’s minor hassles. For others, they mean the difference between happiness and homelessness.

Children’s activities. Photo by: Rachael Colichio

“We build because we believe that everyone, everywhere, should have a healthy, affordable place to call home,” a statement by Habitat for Humanity reads. “More than building homes, we build communities, we build hope and we build the opportunity for families to help themselves. Your donation will help families break the cycle of poverty and build long-term financial security.” 

 The story was produced in collaboration with Caleb Peek