Standing in the hallway of the former Hazelwood Elementary School in Waynesville, amid old furniture, dusty windows and walls with paint peeling, Karen Babcock only sees potential.
“It all fits beautifully,” she smiled. “We hope to bring in local, regional, national and international groups and programs to this facility — we see complete, open opportunities.”
The annual Parade of Nations will showcase international folk troupes along Main Street in Waynesville on Saturday, July 26, as part of the annual Folkmoot USA extravaganza.
The free parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. at the historic courthouse and travel up Main Street through the center of downtown Waynesville for three blocks. This year’s Folkmoot festival and parade will feature the dance, music and culture of seven countries: Colombia, Turkey, Taiwan, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago, Romania and Hawaii.
Folkmoot USA had a $9.2 million impact on Western North Carolina in 2013, according to an economic impact study conducted by Tom Tveidt of SYNEVA Economics.
The study included the Western North Carolina region but focused on Haywood County, showing that Folkmoot’s overnight visitors spent $6.6 million during their visit. Outside day-trippers spent an additional $89,000 in Haywood County.
Only overnight and outside day-trip visitors were included in Folkmoot’s study.
With a property deed to their headquarters in hand and more than 30 years of cultural performance already in the history books, Folkmoot USA will also be shifting a handful of its signature events around for this year’s festival.
Usually the Folkmoot “Gala Performance & Champagne Reception” private preview event for donors and sponsors was held at the Stompin’ Ground in Maggie Valley on a Thursday kicking off the festival, with the public “Grand Opening” at the same spot on Friday. Though the “Grand Opening” will now officially launch Folkmoot on Friday, July 18, the “Gala Performance & Champagne Reception” has been moved to Monday. July 21.
The whirling skirts and clacking heels of Folkmoot USA represent eight different nations spanning the globe, but while the diversity makes for a beautiful spectacle, having all those languages in one place can make verbal communication a little difficult. There’s not much similarity between English, Russian and Chinese, but dance is universal.
“Music is an international language,” said Concord resident Mary Talbert, who traveled to see the Folkmoot dancers with her daughter Misty Mowrey.
For two weeks every July, the old Hazelwood School in Waynesville becomes a mini United Nations.
Performance groups from around the globe descend on Haywood County and Western North Carolina. They’re dancers, singers and musicians, each proudly representing their faraway native land and culture. And with every group comes a language barrier. Though there are obviously difficulties in not being able to understand someone else, the beauty of sharing cultures comes in finding common ground with that person.
When Shirley Finger was younger, she never did too much clogging. Or dancing of any kind, really.
“Back when I was growing up you didn’t go to a dance, that was the Devil’s place,” recalled Finger. “But when I got married my husband was on a dance team and I just fell in love with it.”
Finger fell in love with clogging. She has since enjoyed spreading the gospel of clogging with the Waynesville-based Dixie Darlin’s.