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Balsam Range hitting for the home team in Haywood tourism messaging

Members of the nationally acclaimed bluegrass band Balsam Range are now the bona fide ambassadors of Haywood County.


The Haywood Tourism Development Authority asked the five-man band to serve as official promoters of Haywood County.

“What better ambassadors can we have?” said Lynn Collins, executive director of the Haywood County TDA.

The high-profile bluegrass band, hailing from Haywood, dovetails perfectly with the county’s new tourism promotion message: Homegrown in Haywood. The marketing campaign positions Haywood as a bastion of authentic Appalachia, be it music, handmade items, food, culture or even craft beer.

Although all the details have not been worked out, the band’s new duties could include bringing tourism materials on the road, such as T-shirts or maybe koozies with the TDA logo on them, or being featured in promotional videos.

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“It is a work in progress,” Collins said.

Darren Nicholson, mandolin player for Balsam Range, said he expects the job to be easy since the band already makes a point to mention Haywood County at all its shows and invite people to visit.

“It is our honor and pleasure,” Nicholson said. “It’s just beautiful, and the people are great. There are no better people than in Western North Carolina.”

The band will not be paid to carry the torch of Haywood’s tourism message.

Balsam Range has had numerous nominations at the International Bluegrass Music Awards and finally won the IBMA “Song of the Year” in 2011.

Separately, each musician has a list of noted achievements as well. Banjoist Marc Pruett has won a Grammy Award; bassist/dobroist Tim Surrett is in the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame; guitarist Caleb Smith won PowerGrass Music Awards “Male Vocalist of the Year;” Nicholson performed at the Grand Ole Opry; and fiddler Buddy Melton has jammed with the legendary Doc Watson.

The Haywood County Board of Commissioners even proclaimed Aug. 10 “Balsam Range Day.”

And although the band members reside in different towns in Haywood County, they don’t differentiate; they lay claim to the whole of the county.

“We are really proud of the county,” Nicholson said. “Everybody in this county, from the very first show we did, got behind us and supported us.”

Balsam Range’s summer is already jam packed with concerts to continue promoting their most recent album “Papertown,” named after Canton.


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