Buncombe County native and life long resident, Whitney J. Ponder, recently purchased the old homestead of the legendary Bascom Lamar Lunsford -“The Minstrel of the Appalachians” – in Leicester, NC and has founded The Pondering Bascom Performing Arts and Education Center nonprofit organization.
The foundation’s mission is dedicated to the preservation, promotion and continued education in traditional Appalachian performing arts, fine arts & crafts, regional history and sustainable lifestyle practices. She is working alongside The Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County to forever protect and preserve this important piece of WNC history.
The foundation, named after Ms. Ponder and in honor of Bascom Lamar Lunsford, will follow in Bascom’s footsteps by providing an intimate community gathering space for performance, promotion, education and hands-on workshops at his old homestead; nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Buncombe County. Ms. Ponder’s mother, Brenda Gail Rice (1941-2002), participated in Bascom’s Youth competitions, singing, playing guitar and tap dancing when she was a young girl and Whitney grew up just a few miles from Bascom’s homestead. As a child, stories of Bascom were shared with her by her mother and grandmother so, when the house came on the market in 2021, she had been looking to move from downtown Asheville back to her country roots and sprang into action! She realized the importance of preserving Bascom’s home, his life’s work, and his legacy for future generations. She enclosed a personal letter to the sellers along with her offer and feels honored to have been chosen as the next steward of this important piece of WNC history.
Bascom Lamar Lunsford – “ The Minstrel of the Appalachians” (1882 – 1973) dedicated his life to the performance, promotion, collection and preservation of traditional Appalachian music, dance, regional history, Southern culture and folklore. Lunsford recorded over 300 traditional Appalachian ballads, from memory, for The Library of Congress and he and a group of local musicians and dancers performed for President and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and the King and Queen of England at the Whitehouse in 1939. He founded The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in 1928 and it is the oldest continuously running folk festival in the United States. It is held annually in the beautiful mountain town of Asheville, NC and folks travel far and wide to enjoy a weekend of traditional Appalachian music and dance. Lunsford was born on the campus of Mars Hill University in neighboring Madison County, NC where they host a wonderful archival collection of Bascom’s memorabilia, instruments and historical documents and hold the annual Lunsford Music Festival the first weekend in October.