Mountain music, dancing and tradition will be on display on the shores of beautiful Lake Junaluska as the Smoky Mountain Folk Festival, now in its 40th year, celebrates the culture and heritage of Western North Carolina.
As in years past, spectators will be treated to performances by more than 200 mountain dancers and musicians at the 2,000-seat historic Stuart Auditorium on the grounds of Lake Junaluska. Each night will feature open tent shows on the lawn beginning at 5 p.m. with main stage performances at 6:30 p.m. The entertainment will continue well into the night with the last performances ending some time after 11 p.m.
The festival is one of the longest running and most authentic folk festivals in the South, and offers spectators the chance to experience a wide variety of the region’s best traditional performers. Scores of the region’s finest fiddlers, banjo players, string bands, ballad singers, buck dancers and square dancers will be in attendance. Visitors will also be treated to the unique regional sounds of the dulcimer, harmonica, Native American flute, bagpipes and spoons, even a bowed carpenter’s saw.
While the festival is sure to entertain the thousands of people who attend, it also serves as a venue to preserve the mountains’ legacy of traditional music and inspire a new generation of artists as they swap tunes and licks, song and stories, under the open tents on the lakeshore.
“Our Appalachian identity with its music, stories, song and dance is something we can be proud of and must share with others to keep it alive. It is an identity that enriches all who experience it,” said festival director Joe Sam Queen.
The Smoky Mountain Folk Festival had its beginnings as a collaboration between Queen and a master fiddler named Earnest Hodges. Queen’s grandfather had passed away shortly before and Queen and his family sought to celebrate the music and dancing his grandfather had loved so much.
“My grandfather Sam Queen made mountain music and dancing such a big part of this community’s life, we wanted to carry on this family tradition and share it with the community just as he had done,” said Queen.
Queen and Hodges put together those early festivals in the high school gymnasium of what is now Waynesville Middle School. They worked together to contact and lineup an extensive collection of mountain artists to perform. The festival was a success for the community, attracting hundreds of visitors and locals each night.
Now a tradition with decades of history, the festival has established itself as a family and community gathering with many performers returning each year to see old friends and make new ones. Families return each year with new generations to enjoy what is one of the richest cultural events of the year.
Main show tickets are $12 at the door, $10 in advance, with children under 12 admitted free. Advance tickets can be purchased at the Haywood County Arts Council at 86 North Main Street in Waynesville or at the Administration Building at Lake Junaluska.
And of course, in keeping with tradition, there is always a complimentary slice of cool watermelon available to all who attend.