It gets to the point without distraction.
Folk music — the intersection of the human heart and the greater world — lies at the foundation of American culture. From the folk traditions and musicians of the British Isles that eventually made their way to the high peaks and low valleys of Southern Appalachia centuries ago, folk music is a timeless sound nurturing urgent lyrics.
Mountain music, dancing and tradition will be on display once again as the 45th annual Smoky Mountain Folk Festival celebrates the culture and heritage of Western North Carolina Sept. 4-5 on the shores of Lake Junaluska.
Mountain music, dancing and tradition will be on display once again on the shores of beautiful Lake Junaluska as the Smoky Mountain Folk Festival, now in its 42nd year, celebrates the culture and heritage of Western North Carolina.
Four decades of tradition have built the foundation for the Smoky Mountain Folk Festival, which will launch into its 41st year on Sept. 2 and 3 at Stuart Auditorium in Lake Junaluska.
More than 200 dancers and musicians grace the shores of Lake Junaluska to entertain spectators over the Labor Day weekend.
Open tent shows will kick off each evening of entertainment at 5 p.m. Shows on the main stage in the 2,000-seat auditorium will start at 6:30 p.m. and end after 11 p.m.
The festival offers the chance to experience a broad range of musical and dance styles. Masters of traditional bluegrass instruments such as the banjo and fiddle will show of their skills, and more unorthodox and unusual instruments such as the dulcimer, harmonica, Native American flute, bagpipes and even spoons and a carpenter’s saw will provide the weekend’s music.
Buck dancers, square dancers, ballad singers and other traditional performers will round out the thoroughly Appalachian lineup.
The festival finds its history in Festival Director Joe Sam Queen, who teamed up with a local fiddler to celebrate the mountain music and dance of his grandfather, who had recently died.
Those first festivals were held in the gym of what is now Waynesville Middle School.
“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.
So he gathered local talents to keep the traditions alive, and they proved popular with local crowds.
The audiences began to grow and eventually outpaced the meager space offered by the gym.
Today, the performances garner more than 1,500 visitors each night.
But though the festival has grown in size, the traditions that inspired its inception still inform the festival today. Each festivalgoer, for example, is still given a free slice of watermelon to munch on while enjoying the show.
Tickets are $12 at the door and $10 in advance. Children under 12 are admitted free. For more information, call 828.452.1688.
Senator Joe Sam Queen- Master of Ceremonies
Friday Sept. 2
5:00 Open Tent Show
Stoney Creek Boys
6:30 — Mountain Tradition
7 p.m. — Cole Mountain Cloggers
George & Brook Buckner
7:30 — UNC A Smooth Dancers
The Trantham Family
8 p.m. — Dixie Darlin’s
Spirit Fiddle/ Robin Warren
8:35 — Green Valley Cloggers
Phil & Gaye Johnson
9:15 — Southern Mountain Smoke
9:45 — Bailey Mountain Cloggers
Stony Creek Boys
10:15 — J Creek Cloggers
10:30 — Southern Mountain Smoke
Stoney Creek Boys
Also expected to perform: Don Pedi, Karen “Sugar” Barnes, Bobby Hicks
Hazel Creek, and Mike Lowe
Saturday, Sept. 3
5 p.m.— Open Tent Show
Whitewater Bluegrass Co.
6:30 — Fines Creek Flatfooters
Helena Hunt & Tracy Best
7 p.m. — Southern Mountain Fire-Smooth
7:30 — Stoney Creek Cloggers
Phil & Anne Case
Hominy Valley Boys
8 p.m. — Southern Appalachian Cloggers
The Cockman Family
8:45 — Appalachian Mountaineers
Spirit Fiddle/Robin Warren
9:15 — Smoky Mountain Stompers
10 — Southern Mountain Fire Cloggers
Whitewater Bluegrass Co.
*All performers are volunteer; therefore schedule could change without notice.
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.
By Michael Beadle
What keeps people coming back year after year to the Smoky Mountain Folk Festival at Lake Junaluska each Labor Day weekend?
Maybe it’s the award-winning performers such as Marc Pruett, David Holt and Sheila Kay Adams. Maybe it’s the wholesome sounds of family string bands. Maybe it’s the chance to see Southern Appalachian clogging teams at their best.