Around town: Lunsford festival honors WNC legend

SWING YOUR PARTNER: Mars Hill University's dance team, the Bailey Mountain Cloggers, performs during the 2022 Bascom Lamar Lunsford Mountain Music Festival. Photo courtesy of the festival

Western North Carolina’s second longest-running folk festival, the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Mountain Music Festival, will take place at Mars Hill University in conjunction with the Madison Heritage Arts Festival in downtown Mars Hill on Saturday, Sept. 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

The free, family-friendly Lunsford Festival will feature musical performances on the Lunsford Commons, also known as the Upper Quad, adjacent to College Street. The lineup includes the Bailey Mountain Cloggers, Josh Goforth, Nobody’s Darling String Band, Branson Raines, Carol Rifkin with John Mitchell, Sourwood Ridge, Southern Heritage and more.

At 11:15 a.m., the 2023 Bascom Lamar Lunsford Awards will be presented to radio personality and longtime festival emcee John Roten and posthumously to Madison County educator David W. Robinson, who spent a lifetime playing and singing traditional music. At 1:30 p.m. in the Owen Theatre, musicians will share traditional ballads in the annual ballad swap.

Lunsford dedicated his life to researching the songs and dances of Appalachian mountain culture. He started the longest-running festival in WNC, Asheville’s Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, in 1928. The first festival bearing his name took place on the Mars Hill campus in 1967, and his collection of traditional ballads can be found in the university’s Southern Appalachian Archives.

The Madison Heritage Arts Festival, now over 25 years old, will feature traditional arts and crafts vendors, Appalachian food booths, baked goods, candy and beverages downtown.

A shuttle service will run from 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. from the Ingles supermarket parking lot on N.C. 213 (Cascade Street).

Mars Hill University is at 100 Athletic St., Mars Hill. For more information on the Lunsford Festival, visit For more information on the Madison Heritage Arts Festival, visit

Visit artists’ studios

The two-day, self-guided Haywood County Studio Tour will take place Saturday, Sept. 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 24, noon-4 p.m. Over 35 artists throughout the county will invite visitors into their studios to view demonstrations and buy art.

On Thursday, Sept. 21, 4-7 p.m., Haywood County Arts Council artists will participate in a kickoff event at the Mill Town Farmers Market, where they will set up their artwork and hold craft demonstrations. A community jam led by the Haywood Ramblers will take place at 4 p.m. with North Carolina-based bluegrass band Nu-Blue following at 5:30 p.m.

The Mill Town Farmers Market is at 8 Sorrells St., Canton. For more information, visit

AshevilleCon kicks off Saturday

AshevilleCon’s inaugural comic book and pop culture convention will take place Saturday, Sept. 23, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at the Holiday Inn Hotel Conference Center.

The event will feature over 100 vendors with comic books and magazines, toys and games, and apparel and other items related to anime, cosplay and wrestling. Comic industry professionals and celebrities will attend, and a cosplay contest will take place at 4 p.m.

“The AshevilleCon strives to be North Carolina’s best and truest comic con, featuring fandoms of multiple genres,” says Carmine De Santo, show producer, in a press release. “As longtime fans of comic books, toys, pop culture, cosplay, animation, horror, sci-fi and fantasy, we wanted to bring that style event to the Asheville area. ”

Tickets for the event are $20 for general admission, with children younger than 11 free. VIP and platinum tickets are also available.

The Holiday Inn Conference Center is at 435 Smokey Park Highway. For more information, visit

Angels among us

Asheville-based author Maria Smilios will debut her book Black Angels: The Untold Story of the Nurses Who Helped Cure Tuberculosis at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe on Thursday, Sept. 28, at 6 p.m. The hybrid event will include a book signing as well as a conversation with local author Sarah Patten.

The book, published by Putnam, tells the true story of the women who fled the Jim Crow South to help fight the deadly tuberculosis epidemic at Staten Island’s Sea View Hospital. For over 20 years, these women saved countless lives while challenging institutional racism and actively participating in the movement to desegregate the entire New York City hospital system, according to a press release. They also helped administer the first doses of the cure for TB, discovered by Sea View’s Dr. Edward Robitzek — a medical breakthrough that ultimately shut down the hospital.

Smilios paints a portrait of life on the front lines of the deadly disease using never-before-accessed archives and firsthand interviews with the families of nurses like Edna SuttonMissouria Louvinia Meadows-WalkerClemmie PhilipsJanie Shirley and Virginia Allen, who at 91 remains one of the last surviving Angels.

Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe is at 55 Haywood St. For more information, visit

Family affair

As if She Spoke in Tongues, a new book of poetry by WNC author Kim Hayes, is being released by Grateful Steps Publishing House this month. The book is a collaboration between poet mother and illustrator daughter Rachel Thomas, “resulting in a unique and sometimes startling blend of creative perspectives,” according to a press release.

A free book launch with both Haynes and Thomas will take place Sunday, Sept. 24, 4-7 p.m., at the Hamburg Crossing Club House in Weaverville.

“Sharing this experience with my daughter … has added even more layers of interpretation,” says Hayes. “What I craft with words, Rachael has envisioned on canvas.”

Hayes has written for radio, newspapers, nonprofits, financial institutions and a religious conference center. Thomas is a Florida-based illustrator whose work has been featured in USA Today.

The Hamburg Crossing Club House is at 81 Mountain Meadow Circle, Weaverville. For more information, visit

Dykeman Legacy spotlights 4 memoirs

On evenings from September to December, the Wilma Dykeman Legacy will celebrate four memoirs from the mountains of Western North Carolina through lectures and book discussions at the West Asheville Public Library. All events will begin at 7 p.m.

The series began Sept. 14 with author Jeremy B. Jones discussing his memoir, Bearwallow: A Personal History of a Mountain Homeland. The next event on Thursday, Oct. 19, features a talk with Janet Hurley, owner of True Ink and co-founder of Asheville Writers in the Schools & Community (now Artéria Collective), featuring her memoir Glove Shy: A Sister’s Reckoning. A discussion of her book will follow on Wednesday, Oct. 25.

Wilma Dykeman was a Buncombe County native who chronicled the life of Appalachians. According to its mission statement, the Wilma Dykeman Legacy is a nonprofit organization that sponsors programs and writers to sustain the core values for which Dykeman stood: “environmental integrity, social justice and the power of the written and spoken word.”

The West Asheville Public Library is at 942 Haywood Road. For more information, visit

‘Little Satchmo’ screening at UNCA

On Friday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m., local director John Alexander and producer JC Guest will present their Emmy-winning documentary “Little Satchmo” as part of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute’s Just Films Series at UNC Asheville’s Reuter Center. This will be the first public live screening in Asheville, marking the film’s hometown premiere.

The film, which tells the story of Louis Armstrong‘s “secret” daughter Sharon Preston-Folta, won the Southeast Emmy Award for Best Historical Documentary in June. Based on Preston-Folta’s memoir of the same title, the film portrays the two-decade love affair between Armstrong and Harlem dancer Lucille “Sweets” Preston, and Preston-Folta’s life, as she kept quiet about who her father was for almost 50 years.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Alexander and Guest. The event is free but requires registration.

UNC Asheville’s Reuter Center is at 300 Campus View Road. For more information, visit

ArtsAVL event support grant

The City of Asheville is partnering with ArtsAVL to administer a new event support grant, allowing ArtsAVL to reimburse cultural and arts-related nonprofit events for certain city fees and charges. The application deadline is Monday, Oct. 2.

“Our large community events and festivals are part of what makes Asheville so special,” says ArtsAVL Executive Director Katie Cornell in a press release. “They also support local jobs, emerging entrepreneurs, surrounding businesses, residents and visitors. The pandemic dealt a major blow to these event operators, and the rising costs of supplies and services have made bouncing back even more difficult. ArtsAVL is thrilled to be able to help provide some relief through this new grant program.”

ArtsAVL, which has been administering grant funding to artists and arts organizations in Buncombe County since 1979, is the only arts agency officially designated by the county to distribute federal, state and county arts funding on behalf of the county.

Eligible nonprofit organizations can apply for financial support for events that are free and open to the public and permitted within Asheville’s streets, parks and outdoor public spaces. Grants range from about $3,000 to $10,000, but the amount can be higher or lower depending on need. Priority will be given to proposals that increase exposure to the arts and promote a high quality of life for residents. Nonprofits must have been operating for at least one year and have a physical presence in Buncombe County.

Awards will be announced in mid-November for events in 2024.

For more information, visit

Look homeward to favorite NC author

A survey of 3,000 respondents by revealed each state’s favorite authors. Asheville’s Thomas Wolfe was voted as North Carolina’s favorite.

Wolfe was born in Asheville in 1900. His writings, such as the classic novel Look Homeward, Angel, were influenced by his surrounding environments, especially his hometown.

North Carolinians’ second choice was a tie between playwright Paul Green and poet Maya Angelou.

For more information, visit


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Andy Hall
Andy Hall graduated from The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. After working at the United States Capitol for ten years, she has returned to her native state to enjoy the mountains — and finally become a writer.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.