Local festival encourages environmental preservation

The Greening Up the Mountains festival is well known for bringing together the Western North Carolina community in support of local arts and appreciation for the land we live on. It is more important than ever to recognize the beauty and importance of our portion of North Carolina as the pressure of global warming and climate change looms over the community.  

Beverly Collins, a biology professor at Western Carolina University, discussed the importance of events, like Greening up the Mountains, in raising awareness for preserving our environment. “For climate change, community events are a great way to bring this global issue home to Western North Carolina, and to get folks excited about local actions that can make a  difference,” Collins said.   

The festival was held on Aug. 28 in downtown Sylva. Photo Credit: greeningupthemountains.com

The festival, which is normally held in the spring to celebrate changing seasons, was postponed this year to Aug. due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was sponsored by the Town of Sylva and the Main Street Sylva Association.

Now celebrating its 24th anniversary, Greening up the Mountains has grown into a celebration of land preservation, Appalachian art, music and food. This festival typically draws in crowds of up to 12,000 attendees and over 100 vendors. Attendees enjoy a 5k run, a youth talent contest, and locally-owned and operated craft breweries. Some of the events and booths featured in the festival focus on educating locals about the history of Greening up the Mountains and the importance of preserving our land and staying engaged in our community. 

From conservation ecology, we have learned that the most successful approach is to work both from the local level up and from the global level down,” Collins said. “Education and raising local awareness is key. It allows people to better understand the issue, what they can do about it, and why it is important.” 

Collins also described how community members can help improve the worsening climate situation from the backyard level.

“They can help mitigate the effects of climate change with small actions such as slowing the spread of non-native invasive plants by removing them or planting native species. They can also establish backyard pollinator gardens, or restore biodiversity on degraded lands,” Collins said. 

Without events like Greening Up the Mountains, it would become increasingly difficult to feel at home here in Sylva. It is so important for community members to continue to support local festivals, organizations, and environmental projects to ensure that Western North Carolina is beautiful for decades to come. 

Planning is in the process for the next festival to be held in March of 2022. More information can be found at greeningupthemountains.com.