Mountain Heritage Day puts emphasis on old-fashioned fun while organizers stress safety

Mountain Heritage Day, the annual celebration of Southern Appalachian culture presented by Western Carolina University, takes place on campus Saturday, Sept. 29, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

With Mountain Heritage Day, as with any gathering of large crowds on campus, the safety of guests is the top priority for organizers and staff.

Upwards of 15,000 people are expected to attend the free festival at Western Carolina University Saturday, Sept. 29.

“With Mountain Heritage Day coming up, the WCU Police Department would like to remind everyone to expect an increased number of pedestrians for this event,” said Police Chief Steve Lillard. “In addition, many of our visitors may not be familiar with our roadways and extra care should be taken when approaching intersections and crosswalks.  Everyone should obey the traffic signals and the posted speed limits.”

Mountain Heritage Day has some 120 volunteers on hand each year, including cart drivers such as Tom Frazier, WCU Print Shop manager.

Campus police and WCU’s Office of Parking and Transportation will work together throughout the event, using an incident command system. Last year, 42 parking, communications staff and police officers were on duty.

A dedicated team of 25 parking officers and staff will be working to keep traffic flowing smoothly, allow easy parking and keep the shuttle service on schedule, said Fred Bauknecht, WCU parking and transportation director. “The university’s parking and transportation staff works together with our campus community to ensure that everyone that attends this family tradition has a safe, enjoyable experience on our beautiful campus,” Bauknecht said. An action plan and understandable instructions for the well-practiced transportation crew is a key element, with visible signage and clear directions for guests being equally important for easy access and safety, he said.

This year, the popular bluegrass bands Balsam Range and Summer Brooke and the Mountain Faith Band return, as do Whitewater Bluegrass Company, Ol’ Dirty Bathtub, the Dietz Family, Frogtown and the Queen Family. Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper will perform at the festival for the first time, with more than a dozen musical acts scheduled to appear.

Campus and community groups have booths staffed by volunteers.

Activities include shuttle service to the Mountain Heritage Center for student docent-led tours of a Smithsonian Institution exhibit, “The Way We Worked.” Photos from the National Archives depict many aspects of work, from the clothing worn, the locations and conditions, and workplace conflict. The photos also document a workforce shaped by many factors ― immigration and ethnicity, slavery and racial segregation, wage labor and technology, gender roles and class ― as well as by the American ideals of freedom and equality.

More than 140 vendors will be on hand with a variety of high-quality arts and crafts on sale. Festival food will range from kettle corn and homemade ice cream to funnel cakes and barbecue, to name a few.

The annual Mountain Heritage Awards given in honor of achievements in historic preservation and outstanding cultural contributions in the region, will be presented to Ann Miller Woodford of Andrews for her work in documenting and rediscovering local African-American history and to Penland Contracting of Franklin, a business known for its work in stream restoration, enhancing water quality and wildlife habitat preservation. The Eva Adcock Award, recognizing exceptional and significant service in maintaining the quality of Mountain Heritage Day as an event, will be given to WCU’s Center for Service Learning, honoring the students who volunteer to help the community enjoy the festival.

The festival goes on, rain or shine. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets for comfortable seating. Dogs on leashes are allowed on the grounds. For more information and updates, go to www.mountainheritageday.com.