Smoky Mountain Festival Part III

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

For Part I of this story please read here…

For Part II of this story please read here…

Emily's Dream

In 1928, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, known as the “minstrel of the Appalachia’s”, began a festival in Buncombe County called the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. The stage was soon full of musicians, mostly from Haywood and Madison County. Lunsford highly encouraged clog dancers to perform as well, aiding in the evolution of dance teams, groups with honed skills and rehearsed routines.

Inspired by the Asheville festival, and desiring to revive the old time music from the area, in 1971, the Smoky Mountain Folk Festival was founded. It began in the gym of the Waynesville Junior High. Eventually, it moved to the Stuart Auditorium and became a staple of the Haywood County tourism calendar.

Today the festival houses a cross section of music from throughout this area’s history. It is a beautiful expression and realization that folk music is always changing. We may not always like the changes, but they are a part of the music that, in turn, defines the area.

As I walk from the tents to the backstage area to get ready for my own performance, I hear Whitewater Bluegrass open the night as the high energy house band and I can’t help but clap along with the audience. I walk through the back door and Larry Watson’s melodic guitar playing tickles my ears. I make my way to the back porch of the building to the sound of Rob and Anne Lough’s dulcimer and sweet harmonies. I meet up with my dad and we go over our rendition of Polly Pretty Polly, a murder ballad my grandfather learned from his aunt in Canton. Yes, folk music is always changing. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Emily Trantham Fleenor

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."