Gordon Mercer and Marcia Mercer Global Digital Post

7th Annual Franklin Folk Festival, Franklin, NC, July 17th, 2010

Notes on Quotes: “Heritage is the living part of us. More than just reading, it is who we are.”


Franklin, NC -- (ReleaseWire) -- 07/06/2010 -- Shirley Ridge was a founding board member of the Folk Heritage Association of Macon County. Shirley is no longer living but her words remind us that heritage is a living thing. Our Appalachian folk heritage comes alive every year at the Franklin Folk Festival, an event we recently covered in our column in the Franklin Press in Franklin, North Carolina. We come together with the practitioners of our region’s crafts, music, dance, food, artists and literature and feel a certain homecoming as we experience traditions passed down over many generations.

As we look around the world, we find traditional folk culture being lost. Some fear that we will become homogenized, a culture of “like minded” people, so similar in our ways of living that our uniqueness vanishes and with it our cultural heritage. Heritage is vital to us. It enriches us and we draw comfort from it. Our heritage defines us, but only gently, giving us roots and also wings.

Cultures, especially if they are richly preserved, are educational, enlightening and downright fascinating. It is in our differing patterns of music, crafts, dance, our differing ways and cultural traditions that we find beauty and meaning. As technology, modern transportation, and mass communication propel us forward, special efforts are needed to preserve our heritage.

This summer we are fortunate to have our 7th Annual Franklin Folk Festival on July 17th, a celebration of Appalachian Heritage. A kick-off concert on July 16th will feature the renowned Doc Watson and David Holt at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts. Taking responsibility for defining our cultural heritage requires dedicated and well organized groups. The Folk Heritage Association of Macon County is committed to making our heritage come alive. This year’s event, chaired by Theresa Ramsey, displays Appalachian traditions and ways of living that brought us to where we are today.

The approximately 100 demonstrations include: board splitting for shingles, woodcarving, weaving, basket making, Chinquapin jewelry, hand –hewn bowls, doll making, artists, crafting walking sticks, fence rails, blacksmithing, pottery making, quilt making, moonshine stills, antique tractor demonstrations, an antique car show, kids games and activities, Civil War Camp and battle re-enactment, Front Porch interviews, soap making and many others. Applied demonstrations bring depth to our heritage.

Musical performances by local favorites include: the Nikwasi Dulcimer Players, Franklin Consort, Deitz Family Band, Tom Estes, Ronnie Evans, Duncan and Duncan Bluegrass, The Carolines, Tim Lynch & the Jammin’ Tent, Robbie & Rosie Park, Men Macon Music, Prime Timers, The Sweet Tater Band, Frogtown 4 and many others. A Mountain Piper will lead the parade up Main Street at 11:00, which will be followed by the annual corn shuckin’ contest. Musicians and dancers (The High Mountain Squares and the Macon Mountaineers Cloggers) will perform throughout the day. The Heritage Alive Youth Talent Contest will be held again this year at the main stage to spotlight the heritage talents of local youth. These events provide an occasion to experience heartfelt expressions of the foundations of our way of life in an age people search for authenticity.

Today local economies are suffering. Tourism is a great stimulator for local economies and cultural heritage centers and events are a huge part of tourism. We are fortunate to have the Folk Heritage Association of Macon County hard at work on a Living Heritage Village and Farm. This long term effort will positively impact Macon County’s economy. Our Commissioners have deeded over 23 acres for this project. Margaret Ramsey as Chairman of the Folk Heritage Association of Macon County, along with other leaders, is spearheading these efforts. Margaret Ramsey is, as Barbara McRae said, simply “amazing,” and we are looking forward to experiencing, “living history” at the center.

Meaningful economic development involves government, businesses, non-profits, civic leaders and citizens working together. Leaders from communities around the world should take note of the models developing in Franklin, paying special attention to the Folk Heritage Association of Macon County, Franklin Folk Festival and the planned Living Heritage Village and Farm.

Appalachian culture today, like other communities, can be a little high tech. We are the home of a strong work ethic and if you can find better story tellers or anyone gaining more enjoyment out of life, please send them our way. Wherever you hail from, wherever you grew up, you will enjoy experiencing the past at the Franklin Folk Festival. Remember, it is not too late to bring a mule in case the antique tractors don’t get up enough speed.
Will you come celebrate our dynamic living heritage in Macon County, North Carolina?

Gordon Mercer is international president of Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society and a professor at Western Carolina University. Marcia Mercer is a writer and columnist. Go to http://9955.hostednr.com to get to our Notes on Quotes Press Room. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of other organizations.