Around Town: WCU’s Mountain Heritage Day returns for 47th year

HILLTOP HOOFERS: The Bailey Mountain Cloggers from Mars Hill University will perform at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, on the Blue Ridge Stage at Mountain Heritage Day in Cullowhee. Photo courtesy of Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Day focuses on the area’s rich cultural past, but to Geoff Cantrell, the annual event also is about looking to the future.

“During one of our long, rambling conversations about the local music scene, ‘Uncle Ted’ White of Whitewater Bluegrass Company recently told me that for him, an important aspect of Mountain Heritage Day is how it includes children and keeps traditions alive, and that creates a legacy for coming generations,” says Cantrell, WCU’s media relations manager.

After going virtual last year, Mountain Heritage Day returns Saturday, Sept. 25, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The 47th annual event, which takes place at various locations on WCU’s Cullowhee campus, includes bluegrass and traditional music performances, as well as clogging demonstrations, family activities, vendors, arts and crafts and a 5K race.

“I describe Mountain Heritage Day as equal measures of a harvest festival, a family reunion and a musical jamboree,” Cantrell says. “While the stereotype is hillbillies of Scots-Irish ancestry, there is and always has been so much diversity in the region.”

That diversity, he says, will be reflected with a Cherokee youth stickball game, Native American arts and crafts, and an African American history and storytelling session by author and artist Ann Miller Woodford.

For kids, there also will be singalongs, a community square dance and play-party activities.

Musical acts on the bill include the bluegrass sister/brother duo Summer Brooke & Brayden, who get things started at 10 a.m., Whitewater Bluegrass Company, The Queen Family, Phil and Gaye Johnson, The Grascals and Merle Monroe.

The day also includes a classic car and truck show, a mule-drawn wagon and antique tractor rides. Additionally, Sylva’s Calliope Stage troupe will present a short theater piece, A Singer Needs a Song, about Ethel Brown, a blind ballad singer from Jackson County. The play begins at 12:15 p.m. at the Shape Note Tent.

For more details, go to

Blazing a trail

Explore Asheville is seeking public input on the African American Heritage Trail, which is expected to be completed in late 2022 with the installation of up to 19 physical markers in and around downtown Asheville.

Organizers have hosted a series of in-person and online viewing sessions throughout September to let people know what topics the trail could highlight. A final Zoom session takes place Tuesday, Sept. 28, 6-7 p.m. You can register at

Additionally, people can complete an online survey at The survey provides an opportunity for community members to share information on what sites, stories and figures from local history they think should be included on the trail.

“They can weigh in on the story samples presented as well as suggest new ones,” says Pat Kappes, vice president of community engagement at Explore Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau. Story topics so far include the first Black labor union, Black student activism in the 1960s, the Asheville Royal Giants baseball team and the Allen High School for girls.

Based on the feedback, the collection of stories will be further refined and presented in another round of community input opportunities in early to mid-2022, Kappes says.

The trail ultimately will include markers in the East End/Valley Street neighborhood, downtown, The Block, Southside/South Slope area and the Depot Street/River Arts District area. There also will be a digital version of the project available.

“[The trail] is part of our collective effort to engage and invite more diverse audiences to Asheville, and importantly, connect those guests to local neighborhoods, diverse businesses and entrepreneurs,” says Vic Isley,  president and CEO of the Explore Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

For more information, go to

King for a day

Decades ago, Fred Northup started thinking about writing an epic drama based on the life of King David, the legendary Old Testament figure. Now that the musical is a reality, he is thrilled it will have its world premiere in his native Asheville.

“I like to think I’m adding to the cultural tradition that has always been a part of this city,” Northup says. He’s also pleased to help put actors and musicians to work — two segments of the community particularly hard-hit during the pandemic.

David: The Faces of Love will be performed Tuesday, Sept. 28, at 7 p.m. at The Wortham Center for the Performing Arts, 18 Biltmore Ave. More than 25 local choir singers, musicians and actors will be featured in the play, directed by Mike Yow.

Northup, former dean of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, wrote the script along with musical partner Drew Banzhoff, a student at UNC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem.

“David is the greatest king and ruler in the history of Israel, revered in the Jewish tradition,” Northup says. “He was a poet, charismatic leader, fighter [and] musician, but he was also an adulterer, a murderer and, in his own eyes, a failed father to one of his sons.”

The production explores choices and their consequences, and the joy and pain of love, Northup continues.

The event will also serve to raise awareness of the needs of people who are experiencing homelessness in Asheville. Audience members will have a chance to designate 20% of the cost of their tickets to either Homeward Bound or BeLoved Asheville, local nonprofits committed to eradicating homelessness.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

Black Mountain College talk

David Silver of the University of San Francisco will give an online talk about “famously radical” Black Mountain College and its relationship with its neighbors Monday, Sept. 27, 10:30-11:45 a.m.

The experimental college was founded in 1933 and operated in various locations in Black Mountain and Asheville until 1957. It was known for its progressive arts-based curriculum, early racial integration and liberal takes on gender and sexuality.

Silver will discuss how the college, contrary to popular misconception, often collaborated with its neighbors and local organizations such as the Asheville Farm School (today’s Warren Wilson College).

The Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center, which hosts the talk, is seeking input about what kinds of lectures people would like to see in 2022 for the WNC History Café and Appalachian Experience series. To take the survey, visit

For more information or to register for the Black Mountain talk, go to 

Something to fret about

Asheville-based Aluminati Guitar Co. will hold a ribbon-cutting event for its new showroom at 53-A Shiloh Road on Friday, Oct. 1, 5-8 p.m. The event will feature food and refreshments, live discussions, a raffle and live music performances featuring the company’s instruments.

Aluminati says it uses nontraditional and sustainable materials to build its guitars, replacing wood and organic materials with more consistent, durable and sonically resonant metals and synthetic materials.

It recently unveiled its Orion series of guitars and basses, which feature “a sleek offset-style, black Lucite acrylic body and a gleaming, mirror-polished hollowcore aluminum neck,” according to a company press release. The Orions, along with the Aluminati’s flagship Nebula series guitars, will be available for people to try out at the event.

For more information, see   

The Main event

The Art on Main festival returns to downtown Hendersonville Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 25-26, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Sponsored by the the Arts Council of Henderson County, the 62nd annual event will feature more than 100 local and regional juried artists selling paintings, works in clay, metal, wood and fiber, photographs, jewelry and more.

More information is available at



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About Justin McGuire
Justin McGuire is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate with more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, the (Rock Hill, SC) Herald and various other publications. Follow me @jmcguireMLB

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