Most things in life start out small — acorns grow into oak trees, babies are reared into adulthood, small patches of green spread until they eventually cover the mountains each spring.
The latter is the focus of Jackson County’s annual festival Greening Up the Mountains, an event that has seen a lot of growth itself.
What started as a small Earth Day event has now grown to the largest festival in Jackson County. Attendance at the former mostly locals event has swelled to 10,000 to 12,000 each year during its 15-year existence.
“It’s kind of neat that it started as a little Earth Day parade in downtown Sylva,” said Emily Elders, an event coordinator. “It’s grown exponentially every year.”
The Greening Up the Mountains festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 28 on Main and Mill Streets in historic downtown Sylva. The Downtown Sylva Association organizes the event, which celebrates the local economy, sustainability and traditional heritage crafts.
More than 200 vendors from all over the county — nonprofits, for-profits and others groups — will set up along the two streets, handing out pamphlets of information and peddling their handmade wares.
“It’s a really good time to shop for incredible unique Mother’s Day or Fathers Day (gifts),” Elders said.
Even though the festival only lasts one day, the event offers for businesses and groups in Jackson County chance for greater exposure that last for years.
As a business owner, Matthew Turlington said the festival is a chance to broaden his customer base.
“You hope that it brings your standard customers and new customers,” said Turlington, owner of Penumbra Gallery and Studio.
The event draws new potential clients and more emails for their list-serves. This year, the downtown association will survey vendors and local businesses to get a concrete idea of how the local economy benefits from the festival.
“For me, that is the best part. The impact lasts,” Elders said. “It’s really been a lot of economic benefit, not just for the downtown.”
It’s also an opportunity for visitors to experience the best things about Jackson County all at once. As a Jackson County resident, Turlington said his favorite aspect of the festival is its incorporation of Appalachian history, from clogging to singing, and the young performance groups.
“I have always enjoyed the local young talent,” Turlington said.
Two music stages will feature Jackson County bands and heritage dancers. Between bands, multicultural dancers, such as Mexican Folkloric Dancers, Cherokee traditional dancers, the Liberty Baptist Men’s Choir and the Eternity Dance troupe, will perform.
“(The bands are) a pretty good mix this year too,” Elders said.
The traditional bluegrass and Americana bands will be on hand as well as folk and jam bands.
A third stage will be set up specifically for children’s enjoyment, along with the annual Youth Talent Show. Children’s activities include storytelling, face painting, an inflatable slide, the recycled materials Superhero Costume Contest and volunteer projects. This year’s event will also include a 5K run.
Schedule of events
Greening Up the Mountains starts at 10 a.m. and concludes at 4 p.m. on April 28 on Main and Mill Streets in historic downtown Sylva. www.downtownsylva.org.
The Smoky Mountain Stage in the Suntrust Parking Lot
• 10-11 a.m.: Tennessee Jed An Asheville-based bluegrass band with a bit of a rock feel.
• 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.: Marshall Ballew A Sylva native and folk/Americana musician.
• 12:30-1:30 p.m.: Sugar Barnes & Dave Magill A duo with an old-fashioned blues sound.
• 1:45-2:45 p.m.: Moolah Temple Men’s Auxiliary A mix of electronic, lo-fi and choral music.
• 3-4 p.m.: Dan River Drifters A fast-paced bluegrass band based in Sylva.
Tuckaseigee Stage at Bridge Park Pavilion
• 10-10:45 a.m.: The Suite C: An acoustic folk/indie band from Alabama.
• 11-11:45 a.m.: John-Luke Carter A singer-songwriter from Sylva.
• Noon-12:45 p.m.: PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) A Cullowhee-based reggae/jam band.
• 1-1:45 p.m.: Total War A Sylva-based indie/rock group.
• 2-2:45 p.m.: The Freight Hoppers A popular Bryson City-based old-time string band.
• 3-4 p.m.: Noonday Sun.
Triple Threat Kids’ Stage in Poteet Park
• 10-11:30 a.m.: Mountain Youth Talent Show
• 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Triple Threat Performing Arts
• 12:45-1:15 p.m.: Junior Appalachian Musicians
• 1:30-2 p.m.: Sylva Children’s Theater
• 2:15-2:45 p.m.: Lions Gate Kung Fu Academy
• 3-3:30 p.m.: Burning Ones (The Father’s House of Prayer)
• 3:30-4 p.m.: White Dragon Martial Arts