By Kristin Fox
After a two-year absence, one of Franklin’s favorite festivals, the Franklin Area Folk Festival, returned this past weekend. An estimated 2,000 people visited the Cowee School Arts and Heritage Center for Saturday 16e Annual festival. The festival, known as “A Celebration of Appalachian Heritage,” continues to be a favorite among locals, while also drawing visitors from North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.
Located in the historic Mill district of Cowee West, the festival is a unique showcase demonstrating the daily skills, crafts and music of our ancestors. The folk festival is held on the third Saturday in August each year to help preserve and educate the community about the rich heritage of Franklin and Macon County.
“The festival gives people a chance to reminisce about how things used to be,” said Anne Hyder, president of the Franklin Folk Festival. “It is mainly a heritage demonstration event exposing traditional skills that you don’t always see everywhere.”
“We believe that if you don’t remember how things were in the past, it will affect how things play out in the future,” Hyder added. “We want people to cherish and appreciate the way things have been in the past and pass that on to future generations. We love that we have families of all ages who recognize and remember things from the past, which may be new to them.
The festival featured several heritage demonstrators which are the heart and soul of the festival including carpet making, pine needle weaving of chairs and baskets, blacksmithing, flint siesta, woodworking /wood carving, spinning and quilting. More than 75 vendors participated in the free festival celebrating all things Appalachia, including Civil War re-enactors and camp.
Animals were part of the festival along with the new Macon County 4-H sponsored goat exhibit. Large crowds gathered for several border collie demonstrations presented by Bill Coburn of Windy Knolls Farm.
An expanded children’s program kept the youngsters busy throughout the day. On the playground under the children’s tent, the youngsters could try their hand at traditional activities such as weaving and churning butter as well as making a banjo and corncob dolls. Traditional games such as egg and sack races and tug of war were available for children’s enjoyment.
Other activities for children of all ages spread across the festival grounds included Grandma’s Washing Day, Corn Shelling, Dairy Cow Challenge, Pottery and Weaving. Children could have their faces painted by Macon Faces & Henna and pick up a new book from the Read2Me stand.
Throughout the day, traditional mountain music, gospel, and bluegrass could be heard in the schoolyard on the outdoor stage, in the school gymnasium, and throughout the school. This year’s festival featured Kornbread Kreek, The Vagabounds, Frank Lee & Emolyn Liden, Rainbow’s End, Nikwasi Dulcimer Players, Lady & the Tramps, Susan Pepper, Wyatt Duvall, Richard Tichich and the White Sisters.
The crowd also enjoyed performances by the award-winning dance team, J. Creek Cloggers of Haywood County, sponsored by the Macon County Arts Council. Shelia Kay Adams, sponsored by Suminski Family Books, entertained the crowds with storytelling.
Highlighting the importance of the Appalachian quilting tradition, special quilts were on display, including the famous Cabarras quilt, the Celebrate America quilt and the world’s largest original quilt. The Cowee Quilters and Smokey Mountain Quilters demonstrated the art of quilt making.
This free event is co-sponsored each year by the Folk Heritage Association of Macon County (FHAMC) and the Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center with support from the Cowee Community Development Organization, the Franklin/Nantahala Tourism Development Committee and the Franklin Tourism Development Authority . .
The success of the event depends on the many sponsors and individuals who support the festival each year. Sharing the same interests in heritage preservation and agriculture, Farm Bureau is a key supporter of the festival by contributing its time and financial support.
The annual Franklin Area Folk Festival is one of many events sponsored by the FHAMC, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, providing “living history” experiences preserving Macon County’s heritage for generations to come. Other CHFA projects include the Women’s History Trail Project, 4e Quality Heritage Days at Cowee School and special events such as Cowee Christmas and Balsam Bee.