15th Annual Folk Festival celebrates local crafts and traditions

Civil War Re-enactors will be on the grounds at Saturday’s Folk Festival.

Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer 

More than 75 vendors, some of which include demonstrators, historic re-enactors, hands-on craft instruction, and more will be part of the 15th Annual Franklin Area Folk Festival “A Celebration of Appalachian Heritage” at the Cowee School Arts and Heritage Center in Franklin, Saturday, Aug. 17.

This year also includes for the first time local author presentations and book signings. 

“We don’t feel like we have to have something new every year, but this was an opportunity that we wanted to offer.” 

Plus, there will be plenty of locally made and/or prepared food to sample, such as Cowee Fire Department’s barbecue and grilled hamburgers, as well as other vendors’ hot dogs, roasted corn, ‘mater biscuits, cobbler, vegetarian dishes, and much more. 

“Our mission is to preserve and educate about the rich heritage of Franklin and Macon County,” said Anne Hyder, event coordinator and chair of the Folk Heritage Association for seven years. 

“The leadership team is wonderful and this is very much a team effort. Plus, we partner with the Cowee Arts and Heritage Center board, of which I am a member.”

The aim of the Folk Festival is to highlight mountain traditions such as spinning and quilting keeping them alive for future generations.

Nestled in Cowee West’s Mill Historic District, the Cowee School Arts and Heritage Center is a year-round environment for community meetings and monthly lectures, exhibits, and instruction in arts and crafts. However, the annual Folk Festival is an opportunity for the Center to showcase skills, crafts, and music of the Appalachian Mountains. 

The free, family-friendly festival features, along with  live heritage demonstrations  in blacksmithing, flint napping, and woodworking/woodcarving, bluegrass music sessions, Civil War re-enactors, and items for sale, such as pottery, textiles, paintings, books, etc. Plus, Hyder pointed out that there are several children’s activities.

“By linking our future to our past, the Franklin Area Folk Festival sponsors hands-on activities to allow visitors to experience what mountain life was like way back when,” said Hyder. “These folks learned at their parents’ knees woodcarving, weaving, spinning, and all the many other heritage skills that will be demonstrated.

“We want to make sure our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to see and experience some of the things that are dying arts. There are not many places where you can watch hominy being made or tatting, an old mountain tradition of making a type of crochet with a very small loom. And then performances of mountain music, gospel and bluegrass tunes, exemplify a very important cultural heritage of the Appalachian region.”

Some additional highlights, offered Hyder, include noteworthy quilts on display: Cabarras Quilt, The Celebrate America Autograph Quilt, and the original World’s Largest Quilt. In fact, the Cowee Quilters and Smokey Mountain Quilters will be on hand to demonstrate the distinct technique of quilt making. Also, Grandpa’s Woodshop will feature wooden toys with Mike Holden and bluebird houses with Paul Chew.

“To kick off the weekend,” said Hyder, “we are collaborating with Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts to cross-promote their Friday concert, ‘Two-Man Tornado of Hot Picking and Cool Tunes’ with four-time Grammy award winner David Holt and acoustic music star Josh Goforth.”

Hyder encourages people of all ages to enjoy and support the Franklin Area Folk Festival. “Usually, people new to the area come to learn. But it’s almost a reunion of sorts for some of the returning families that have deep roots in the area.”

Because of the bridge construction and road closures near the Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center, Hyder pointed out that many individuals interested in attending the Festival may want to take advantage of the free parking and shuttle transportation, which will be provided from the big field at 17 West Palmer Street (vacant lot adjacent to Appalachian Ace Hardware/below the Lazy Hiker Brewery on the corner of West Palmer and Porter Streets). Shuttles will run every 30 minutes with the last shuttle leaving downtown for the festival at 3 pm. Free limited parking is available closer to Cowee School. For more information call (828) 524-6564.