Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer
A full parking lot and equally packed halls and former classrooms signaled the festivities of the annual Cowee Christmas, which took place Saturday, Dec. 7, at Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center. The daylong event drew families and individuals to peruse hand-made items for purchase, try various handicrafts, listen to music, speak to artisans, peruse hand-made items and enjoy homemade foods.
This is the fifth year for the event, which raises money for the operation of Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center – a local stone structure formerly used as a school from the 1940s until 2012. The facility now serves as an institution of learning in a different capacity, housing equipment to teach pottery, painting, textiles, and more. Plus, there is a toy museum, a Cherokee room, and a genealogy and local research room. Recently, Alarka Expeditions moved into one of the rooms as well and features various books on local history, nature, outdoor pursuits, and more.
Besides raising funds, the main intent of Cowee Christmas is to teach children about local holiday heritage and traditions and to generate community spirit and fellowship, according to organizers.
Wyatt Duvall, 12, said he was in the Christmas spirit and shared that through his skill with the banjo.
“Last year [at Cowee Christmas] was my first time playing here,” said Wyatt, “and I came back this year because it’s fun. I like entertaining people.” Duvall said he had several Christmas songs in his repertoire and has been taking lessons for about four years from Tom Estes, of the group Kornbread Kreek. “I like to play at festivals … all around Franklin. Just wherever people invite me.”
In his second year of volunteering at Cowee Christmas, Bruce Brandsma said he came back because he enjoys “helping people … kids.” He assisted children like Noah Swope, 6, with making a woodblock tic tac toe game.
“I’ve worked with all kinds of mediums in my lifetime,” said Brandsma, who gave Swope pointers throughout the process of making the small game. “I wanted to try it,” said Swope about choosing the woodblock craft. “I like trying new things. It’s fun.”
Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center is open all year round and offers various classes, events, lectures, and more.