Smoky Mountain Festival – Part I

Our Mountain Music Heritage

Women cutting up mountains of watermelon, folding chairs all over the lawn, ducks waddling here and there begging for food, the air is charged with the anticipation of shared music and heritage. The Smokey Mountain Folk Festival is about to begin.

For two days the fiddle tunes and gospel songs mix, mingle, and float over Lake Junaluska like they belong there.

They do.   Story by Emilie Trantham Fleenor

The Children’s Tent entertains passers-by and early birds with light play party songs and audience participation. A tent closer to the water provides shelter for musicians to sit around and swap tunes. Eventually the show begins. The windows to the auditorium are left wide open if the weather is nice. Many people simply stand at the windows to listen to first class musicians like Mac Snodderly, Trevor and Travis Stuart, Michael Youngwood, and Larry Watson and to watch a whole host of dance teams tear up the floor with their routines. Visitors to the area say things like “It’s so neat that this tradition is continued.” They are right. The Festival is one of the most vibrant modern expressions of a rich musical history in Haywood County.

Much of the music that came with the early settlers into this area was much simpler then the stuff you’d see on the stage at the Lake. These Scotch, Irish, English, and German people entered these hills with little more than what they could carry on their backs. Few instruments were available besides a fiddle or two here and there. Ballads were the order of the day. Passed down orally from one generation to the next, these songs were remembered from European countries and rarely existed in any written form. They told stories, often of torrid love affairs, sometimes ending in the death of one sort or another. The presentation of these ballads was simple, straight forward, and even stoic. Even though they were brought from native countries, it wasn’t long before these songs picked up the vernacular and even the geography of the local setting.

To be continued….

The 40th Annual Smoky Mountain Folk Music Festival begins September 3rd and lasts through September 4th, 2010 at the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center.  For more information please visit

"The main shows begin at 6:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, on the grand stage of Stuart Auditorium overlooking beautiful Lake Junaluska. Both nights will include a rich variety of the region's finest fiddlers, banjo players, string bands, ballad singers, buck dancers, and square dance teams as well as the marvelous sounds of dulcimer, harmonica, jew's harp, bagpipes, spoons, saws, and folk ensembles."