PlottFest celebrates Haywood hounds

Event coming to Maggie Saturday
By Stina Sieg | Apr 19, 2012
Photo by: Donated photo

Maggie Valley — MAGGIE VALLEY — Not many dog breeds get their own festival around here. Then again, not many are called the “ninja warrior of dogdom” by famous author Cormac McCarthy.

That’s just one of many compliments that have been heaped upon Plott hounds, the stars of PlottFest. The first-time festival and fundraiser for Head Start, held in conjunction with the 23rd Annual Great Smoky Mountain Trout Festival, is heading to the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds this Saturday, April 21.

As much as the day of music, crafts and catch clinics will honor the famed Haywood County-bred state dog of North Carolina, it will celebrate the heritage of this area as a whole. Plott hounds are just that intertwined with this place’s past.

As author Bob Plott put it, “There’s something that goes beyond that just common admiration for these dogs.”

He would know. Though he would never self-apply the title, he’s seen by many as being the preeminent Plott hound expert, or at least enthusiast, in the state and beyond. In addition to being the third great-grandson of Johannes Georg Plott, who immigrated to America with the dogs, he’s raised the pooches all his life, sometimes when hardly anyone else was. A historical writer, he’s even penned a tribute to the dogs: “Strike and Stay: The Story of the Plott Hound.”

He’ll definitely be at the Saturday celebration, both to sign copies of his book and generally enjoy the Plott-friendly atmosphere. To see these homegrown hounds celebrated in such an impressive way “means an awful lot” he said.

“It’s really gratifying,” he went on, adding that the story of this breed is so much bigger than just his family’s saga. “It’s really just about all mountain families. It’s a shared history that I’m really proud of.”

He’s just one of many with local roots who feel the same. Balsam Range’s Tim Surrett explained that he and the rest of the headlining band’s members think it’s “pretty cool” to celebrate the breed, as they’ve all hunted with a Plott at one time or another.

“That’s been part of our life since birth,” said Surrett, who actually lives in Plott Farm, a little community in Bethel.

Fellow player Darren Nicholson agreed, explaining that Plott hounds, just like their band, are unique to this rural area.

“It’s one of those things like Balsam Range — it’s Haywood County specific,” he said.

He and Surrett both stressed it’s a treat to play a festival that honors this little corner of the world. Between them and the rest of Balsam Range, Nicholson’s solo project, the Darren Nicholson Band, and Amie and Mark Bumgarner, all the music on the schedule is hyper-local. Nicholson likes it that way.

When it comes to music, “Western North Carolina has a very different sort of style,” he said.

Add clogging, the Trout Festival and maybe even some old-time gun fighting by Robert Bradley (of Ghost Town fame), and you’ve got an event that, in Nicholson’s words, “just kind of encompasses the entire Western North Carolina culture.”

That makes Plott especially proud. As an author, he’s the gatekeeper of local history in a way, as it’s his self-appointed duty to preserve all those stories and memories that might otherwise be lost in the folds of time. He knows that Plott hounds are another relic that might have slipped away if he and other dedicated Plott lovers didn’t keep their memory alive.

Plott is fond of saying that with nearly every massive historical event one could point to — from the Civil War to World War II — Plott hounds have been connected in some way. Plott imagines this legacy will continue for a long while yet. This coming Saturday is proof that many others feel the same.

“It’s not just because of my book,” he said, modestly. “It’s because those dogs are so remarkable. They’re just incredible creatures.”

For more information on PlottFest, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds, visit www.plottfest.org.

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