This year, two Cherokee stickball teams, the Hummingbirds team from Cherokee at 2 p.m. and — for the first time — the age 11-and-younger Big Cove youth team at 11 a.m., will demonstrate the traditional competition that is older than written history. Visitors will see new a new logo and new directional signage at the festival, some of it featuring the Cherokee language in honor of this integral part of the area’s saga of civilization.
The annual Mountain Heritage Day 5K has been planned just since the beginning of the school year by class members of new WCU instructor Charlie Parrish’s Sport Management 435 course. They remain ready to accept online registrations with a newly redesigned website at http://claws.wcu.edu/sma/5K/, complimenting the university’s redesign of the Mountain Heritage Day site itself, at http://mountainheritageday.com. Students in different groups planned the marketing of the event; amount of entry fees; cooperation with local law enforcement on the route; acquisition and distribution of supplies like runner’s bibs, T-shirts, awards and refreshments – all of the details of the race. Entry fees support an endowed scholarship fund created by Sport Management Association, a student organization which reached its goal last year to make an award to its first recipient, Liberty Cozart. The race begins at 8 a.m., and should be finished in an hour so that the route may be opened for festival traffic.
This year, a revised parking plan should make it easier for demonstrators and vendors to have access to the festival grounds separately from attendees, diverting their usually-larger vehicles from the traffic flow.
A new site plan for the festival grounds also puts more distance between the performing stages, giving listeners a clearer hearing of performers like Grammy Award-winning David Holt and partner Will McIntyre, old favorite groups like Mountain Faith, Jeff Little Trio, Whitewater Bluegrass Company, the Deitz Family, Roan Mountain Hilltoppers and the Queen Family, as well as newcomers The Buckstankle Boys, the Foxfire Boys, and Woody Pines. A dance floor will be available again for audience dancing or clogging teams, including the Blue Ridge Heritage Cloggers, the Dixie Darlin’ Cloggers and the J Creek Cloggers.
Two recent exhibits in the free-admission Mountain Heritage Center, located in the nearby H.F. Robinson Building, celebrate 125 years of university history and 40 years of Mountain Heritage Day. The university began in a one-room schoolhouse, from which four women and one man graduated three years later. Artifacts ranging from photographs and commencement programs to cheerleader outfits, sports team uniforms and mascot costumes tell the school’s story as it grew. The festival’s exhibit commemorates long-gone events like candidate stump speeches, pet shows, moonshine sniffing and tobacco spitting.
More than 100 booths will offer handmade arts and crafts in juried competition on the festival grounds, sharing space with living history and craft demonstrations; shape-note singing; cooking, canning and baking contests; beard-and-mustache and chainsaw rivalries; an antique auto show; tractor and horse- or mule-drawn wagon rides; plus a tent featuring children’s activities all day. Tempting festival foods – from traditional to historic to ethnic, offered by vendors in trucks and booths – will sustain an entire day’s enjoyment of the opportunities.
Free admission and free parking remain the tradition at Mountain Heritage Day. Visitors are encouraged to bring a blanket or chair, and an umbrella to shed unwanted sunshine or rain. Service animals are welcome, but guests are asked to leave pets at home.