Line-up for the 28th annual Mountains Folk Festival in Burnsville


The 28th Annual Music in the Mountains Folk Festival is coming to the Burnsville Town Center on Saturday, September 28 from 5:30 to 9:30 pm, and there won’t be one untapped toe or unclapped hand in the audience.

This year the festival pays tribute to Bobby McMillon for his contributions to old-time music. Robert Lynn “Bobby” McMillon, a NC Folk Heritage Award recipient, was heir to numerous strands of Appalachian culture. From his father’s family in Cocke County, Tennessee, he learned primitive Baptist hymns and traditional stories and ballads. From his mother’s people in Yancey and Mitchell Counties, he heard “booger tales, haint tales,” and legends about the murder of a relative named Charlie Silver. “The real storytelling,” Bobby says, “was so intertwined that a bear tale or a fish tale or a witch tale or a tale of some history that had really happened—a family tale—they were all equally believable.”

He was always drawn to old songs and stories, but as a teenager he discovered the Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore in the Lenoir Public Library and got a glimpse of the historical background and significance of the things he knew. This inspired an enthusiasm for folklore documentation. By the age of 17, he had begun taping and interviewing family members, neighbors, and friends who knew old songs and stories.
Because these songs and tales have deep roots in his own family and experience, Bobby has a passion for them and for sharing them. “Eventually, I began to realize,” he says “that if I didn’t perform the songs I was learning, most of the repertories of the people I learned from would be lost because they didn’t have family members of their own to hand them down to.” His greatest gift is his rare ability to convey to listeners a feeling for the world from which the stories come.

The Annual Festival is “dedicated to the preservation of mountain music and culture” and includes bluegrass and traditional music, ballad singers, storytellers, and dancing. Instruments range from fiddle to dulcimer to guitar and sometimes include a harmonica or zither. Our evening celebration of traditional performers is uncommon in diversity and artistic excellence! You won’t want to miss one knee-slapping, hand-clapping minute of this evening’s fun!
In addition to Bobby, this year performers include old-time musicians Phil and Gaye Johnson. Gaye plays the guitar, and Phil plays guitar, mandolin, resonator guitar, and harmonica. Though their music is not strictly traditional, it draws from the full spectrum of country music, from old-time Appalachian to Hank Williams songs. Also, there will be performances by the ETSU Bluegrass Band, singer Amythyst Phillips, dancing by Ira Bernstein and Dylan Moody, and Don Pedi on the dulcimer. The evening will kick off with a performance by the Traditional Arts Program for Students (TAPS) instructors – Terry McKinney, Ron Powell, Don Pedi and Jared McQueen. This free program for students in both counties connects kids with their regional heritage through music and the traditional teaching of guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and dulcimer. The emcee for the evening will be storyteller and dancer, Frederick Park.

This year’s line-up:
5:30 to 6:00 TAPS Instructors and kids
6:05 to 6:35 Bobby McMillon
6:40 to 7:10 Amythyst Phillips
7:15 to 7:45 Don Pedi
7:50 to 8:20 Phil and Gaye Johnson
8:25 to 9:10 ETSU Bluegrass Band

And Ira Bernstein and Dylan Moody will be dancing throughout the evening.

You’ll find a rare evening of entertainment resonating to the old and the new from our traditional performers. McCool’s Restaurant will cater the BBQ and drinks. Tickets are $14 adults, $12 for students and seniors 65+. Save $2 by buying your tickets in advance at the Burnsville or Spruce Pine TRAC Galleries through Friday, September 27.

The Music in the Mountains Folk Music Festival is sponsored by the Toe River Arts Council in part by a Grassroots Art Grant from the North Carolina Arts Council, a state agency and The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. For more information, contact the Arts Council at 828.682.7215 or 828.765.0520, email us at or visit the website,


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