The soulful sounds of banjo-picking filled the valley on Saturday, Sept. 25 as the 47th Annual Mountain Heritage Day commenced.
This historic event celebrates Southern Appalachian Mountain culture and helps to preserve the roots of local heritage through craft demonstrations, art vendors, and food.
With last year’s festival being completely virtual, the coordinators of this event worked hard to socially distance vendors, encourage hand-washing, and even provided an opportunity for festival-goers to receive their COVID-19 vaccine provided by the Jackson County Health Department.
Due to this diligence to respect pandemic regulations, over 12,000 community members were able to join in on the fun.
This year, over 130 food and craft vendors sold a variety of handmade jewelry, pottery, Cherokee fry bread, homemade ice cream, and more.
Another crowd favorite was the musical performances that were featured throughout the day on three different stages. Popular performers included The Grascals, The Merle Monroe Band and the Pressley Girls.
“My favorite part of Mountain Heritage Day was all of the food vendors and music! My county fair got canceled last year and this year due to COVID-19, so it was nice to be able to enjoy the things that I’ve missed,” Bailey Jackson, WCU student, said.
Another crowd-pleaser was the high-intensity demonstration of a Cherokee stickball game by the Big Cove team from Cherokee.
After missing out on the festivities last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the local community showed incredible support for the return of this beloved festival.
“This was not my first time going. I originally went to the 2016 Mountain Heritage Day! It was crowded, but I think that means that people just wanted to celebrate, be together, and have some sense of normalcy returned! There were also more vendors this year and more activities,” Jackson said.
With social distancing and mask rules still in place, the local community is eager to get back to festivals and bring a sense of ‘normalcy’ to their seasonal activities. The next big event for WCU is homecoming, with a variety of events taking place the week of Oct. 4.