A little bit football, a little bit lacrosse, Cherokee stickball may be America’s original contact sport. The first European accounts of this game date back to 1667, when more than 2,000 Native Americans were seen chasing a small ball while waving long, wooden sticks in the air. The teams are smaller now, and there are fewer opportunities to play, but on Saturday, Sept. 24, this rough-and-tumble game will be showcased at Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Day.
For the past 37 years WCU has hosted Mountain Heritage Day, a celebration of Southern Appalachian traditions, music, dance and song. The Snowbird Stickball Team from Graham County will once again return to the festival for a 11 a.m. game. Fish, a Native American courtship game, will be played by the stickball team and their female friends, followed by a demonstration of Cherokee blowguns at 3 p.m.
Nearly 100 juried arts and crafts vendors will sell handmade baskets, ceramics, fiber arts, pottery and woodwork. Traditional Cherokee frybread will be available, along with fair favorites like fried pickles and chicken-on-a-stick. Two stages of music will feature traditional music and clogging by the Blue Ridge Hi-Steppers, Fines Creek Flatfooters and Dixie Darlins. If you’d rather dance than watch, festival-goers are encouraged to get on their feet and join well-known clogging instructor Bill Nichols and his daughter Simone Nichols Pace at 2:45 p.m. on the Blue Ridge Stage. Other folk art demonstrations include sorghum molasses-making, black powder rifle firing and draft horse demonstrations.
This year’s activities and performances will take place between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. in the grassy areas and parking lots around WCU’s Cordelia Camp Building and in the Mountain Heritage Center, which is located on the ground floor of H.F. Robinson Administration Building.
Photo courtesy of Western Carolina University