Celebrate the 'Appalachian Lifestyle'

Traditional festival coming to Waynesville Saturday
Jun 04, 2012
Photo by: Stina Sieg This Saturday's Appalachian Lifestyle Celebration will feature a wide spectrum of mountain culture, from farm animals to traditional food, music to crafts, storytelling and more.

Last year around this time, Julie Wilson was playing second fiddle to a baby goat.

She loved it.

The Fines Creek farmer had brought the tiny angora goat and its mama to the inaugural Appalachian Lifestyle Celebration for that very reason, after all. As people crowded around the wooly pair, Wilson could see their faces light up and connections being made. They asked question after question.

“They were just amazed,” she said.

Maybe that means something — beyond the fact that nearly everyone loves adorable babies. Perhaps all the petting and gushing had to do with a hunger many are feeling these days to touch the past. While people have always had romantic notions about how things used to be, it’s hard to imagine a time when how the world was and how the world is were farther about. This Saturday on Waynesville’s Main Street, the artisans and authors, cooks and musicians of the second-annual Appalachian Lifestyle Celebration might just bridge that gap a bit.

In a whimsical way, the festival is about education. Wilson can connect to that. That’s actually why the retired teacher began Jehovah Raah Farm, where she has raised fiber animals since 1999. As much as the farm is about its angora rabbits and goats, Shetland sheep, llamas and alpacas, it’s about gently waking people up to the joy of making things by hand. In between all her daily farm duties (and there are countless), Wilson teaches classes in knitting and spinning and other art forms of the olden days.

“It’s just amazing how it changes people’s lives or their perception,” she said, explaining that many of her students have never seen these processes up-close before.

Once they do, these skills can be impossible to let go, however. Self-sufficiency and tradition can be delightfully addictive, just like it is for Marlow Gates, a broom maker out of Leicester. Gates — whose late father, Ralph, was a master of the broom — will come to the Saturday celebration for two big reasons. Sure, it’s great to make money doing something he loves, but with each broom he sells, he’s also keeping the local tradition of craft alive. While his brooms are far fancier than the ones that were sweeping local floors generations ago, they are made by the same painstaking steps, with most of the same materials.

“It’s important to bring, especially to the outsiders who didn’t grow up here, a sense of how things were done,” said Gates, who runs Friends Wood Brooms with his wife, Diana.

While this place has obviously modernized along with the rest of the world, he’s pleased that it has happened a little slower out here than in other spots. In these mountains, people have held on to the tradition of crafting. It’s probably been more out of necessity than whimsy, as Appalachia has always been so sequestered from the big cities and suburban sprawl of the Southeast. But it doesn’t matter. Whatever the reason for it, Gates knows this area is unique, a place where the line between the past and the present hasn’t always been obvious.

“There’s nowhere else quite like where we live in Western North Carolina,” he said.

He, like so many of the festival’s vendors, hopes to keep it that way. Mountain musician Anne Lough has felt the same for more than 20 years, though her love of Appalachian music goes back even farther. As a teenager several decades ago in Virginia, she fell in love with this area’s simple and plaintive tunes. Back then, she thought the music was just a historical thing, something archaic from England that had long since died. She never dreamed there was a place where it was still so alive — until she moved to Kentucky and then, eventually, here. The dulcimer, autoharp and guitar player has been a familiar face at festivals around the county for years. It means something, she feels, to perform songs that are centuries old — and were even centuries old when they were brought here from Europe generations ago.

“I think it’s so important to have that link to our heritage and realizing the power of music and just the whole power of tradition,” she said

This music matters because it continues to resonate with people, which Lough was reminded of last year, when she and her husband, Rob, performed at this festival. Though she didn’t get a chance to tour all the booths and vendors, she understood what the day was all about. She could see the Appalachian Lifestyle Celebration has to do with preserving history, but not in a museum sense. Instead of encasing the past in glass, the festival makes it come alive in a way television and movies, and even books, simply can’t.

Lough believes the audience for such a thing is big, and has been growing for years. That audience is her audience, after all.

“I think for many, many people, there’s wanting to go back and identify with something that has a deeper meaning, a deeper meaning and satisfaction,” she said, perfectly defining what it means to return to one’s roots.

For more information on the Appalachian Lifestyle Celebration, visit www.downtownwaynesville.com or call 456-3517.

Appalachian Lifestyle Celebration
South End Stage, near Church Street
9:45 to 10:45 a.m. — Chompin’ at the Bit String Band
11 to 11:45 a.m. — Honey Holler
Noon to 1:15 p.m. — Chompin’ at the Bit String Band
12:15 p.m. — Joe Sam Queen/square dance
12:30 p.m. — J Creek Cloggers
1:30 to 2:30 p.m. — Michael Reno Harrell
2:45 to 3:30 — The Ross Brothers
3:45 to 5 p.m. — Chompin’ at the Bit String Band
4 p.m. — Smoky Mountain Stompers

Courthouse Stage, in front of The Mountaineer
9:45 to 10:45 a.m. — Barefoot Movement
11 to noon — Michael Reno Harrell
12:15 to 1:15 p.m. — Barefoot Movement
1 p.m. — J Creek Cloggers
1:30 to 2:15 p.m. — Honey Holler
2:30 to 4 p.m. — Barefoot Movement
3 p.m. — Smoky Mountain Stompers
3:45 p.m. — J Creek Cloggers
4 to 5 p.m. — Ginny McAfee and McKayla Reece

Inside Main Street Perks, 26 N. Main St.
1 to 1:45 p.m. and 2:30 to 3 p.m. — The Liars Bench

Miller Street, near Olde Time Music Sculpture
A variety of performances from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with The Ross
Brothers, Anne Lough, Ginny McAfee, McKayla Reece, Chompin’ at the Bit and the Pisgah Promenaders


Michael Pilgrim, fiddler