By Dasha Morgan- As August arrives, so do some fine Appalachian ballad singers, string bands and square dance teams.
They start showing up on various stages around the area. You can start tapping your foot to the wonderful rhythms each evening from August 1-3 at Lipinsky Hall on the University of NC-Asheville campus with the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. This is a fundraiser for Shindig on the Green.
Bascom Lamar Lunsford, the “Minstrel of Appalachia,” founded the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in 1928, as a means for people to share and understand the beauty and dignity of the Southern Appalachian bluegrass music and dance traditions that have been handed down through generations in western North Carolina.
The songs and dances shared at this event echo centuries of Scottish, English, Irish, Cherokee and African heritage found in our mountains. Over the years, Lunsford recorded over 3,000 songs for the Library of Congress and the Columbia University Library. One of his more noted performances was at the White House in 1939 when he delighted the visiting King and Queen of Great Britain with several mountain ballads. He is known for writing many familiar banjo tunes, fiddle pieces, folk songs, ballads and spirituals, including “Old Mountain Dew.” Remember: “They call it that Good Ole Mountain Dew – Says those that refuse are few.”
This Festival is then followed by a regular Saturday night Shindig on the Green, an Asheville summer favorite. These are held in the center of downtown Asheville on the Roger McGuire Green at Pack Square Park in front of City Hall throughout August. Locals and visitors gather about sundown, or at seven o’clock for those who wear a watch. All you need to do is just stake out a spot on the “green” with a blanket or chair. Performers go on stage for just two numbers each, so an added treat is being able to listen to the clusters of musicians that get together for informal jam sessions under the trees and on the sidewalk. This is their 53rd year of the Shindig on the Green.
In Hendersonville Monday night dancing near the Visitors Center on Main Street from July 8 to August 12 has also become a welcome tradition. This began in 1918 when the city welcomed home its soldiers from the War by celebrating in the streets. Hendersonville comes alive with people square dancing and clogging to the traditional mountain and bluegrass music performed by a live band.
Lively instructions are given to the dancers by a local caller. At 6:30pm Walt Puckett, teaches audience members some basic square dance steps and moves used in traditional Appalachian square dancing, such as the Right Hand Across, Open the Garden Gate and the Shoe Fly Swing. All you need to do is bring a chair, and sit back, relax and enjoy mountain heritage music and dancing from 7:00-9:00pm. The seating area opens at 5:30pm, and be advised that early admission is not permitted; nor are alcoholic beverages, backpacks or coolers allowed. Admission is free. However, per a city ordinance you do need to leave your pets comfortably at home.
Perhaps you prefer a smaller indoor setting. For that you can just drop in at the Feed and Seed Friday and Saturday nights at 3715 Hendersonville Road in Fletcher. Here too you will find live bluegrass, gospel bands, as well as find plenty of local color and friendly folks. There are a number of regulars who enjoy the family friendly atmosphere, jump in to clog and dance, and then perhaps sip on a Cola, free coffee, munch on some popcorn or enjoy a Moonpie.
Church pews make the seating area, with good acoustics for those just listening. But it might be wise to stake out a claim on your seat early, as the place fills up rapidly. The music starts at 7:30 pm Friday and Saturday. The entertainment will get your toes tapping and lift your spirits. Some upcoming shows are: The Family Sowell Bluegrass, August 2; Tom Fisch Opening at 6:30pm/The Neighbors at 7:30pm on August 3; Redleg Husky Mountain Music, on the 9th and High Test Bluegrass on the 10th. For a complete schedule, go to Feedandseednc.com. There is no cover charge, but donations are always welcome.
Farther Away from Home
At the end of August, the 30th and 31st the 50th Annual Smoky Mountain Folk Festival will be held at Lake Junaluska Conference & Retreat Center. The main shows begin at 6:30 p.m. on the grand stage of Stuart Auditorium overlooking beautiful Lake Junaluska in Haywood County. 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. Tickets are $12/night in advance, $14/night at the door, 12-years-old-and-under free. For more information, to see the full performance schedule and/or to purchase tickets, call 828 452-2881 or visit www.lakejunaluska.com.
Or you might want to drive to Jackson County to catch the sounds during Cashiers’ popular concert series, Groovin’ On the Green. This is held at the Village Green and Commons, Aug 2 – August 31. Perhaps before the concerts you want to explore some trails or visit some waterfalls. During the summer months in Cashier’s every Friday night the townspeople come out with their lawn chairs, picnics and wine to socialize and listen to some great music out on the expansive lawn space of the Village Green.
This season welcomes a line up of favorite performers and exciting new talent. Here dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash and under the control of the owner at all times. Pack a picnic supper or cooler or purchase food and beverages from one of vendors on site. Groovin’ On the Green is free, but donations are encouraged and appreciated.
If you want to go even a little farther afield, Robbinsville in Graham County remains remote and sparsely populated. It is a sportsman’s haven and visitors come to Graham County for its solitude and scenic splendor. Some visit the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest or raft with a guide on the Cheoah River. On Friday nights bluegrass and country music can be heard on the Courthouse Square. Live local bands play traditional Mountain Music. It’s good, old-fashioned, mountain fun for the whole family!
There is free parking along Main Street, and many guests bring their lawn chairs and snacks. So for a mountain adventure, perhaps you might want to catch one of these events:
August 2 – Carolina Bluegrass Boys (bluegrass)
August 9 – Southern Rush (southern rock)
August 16 – Fontana Ramblers (bluegrass)
August 23 – New Horizon (bluegrass)
August 30 – Steve Jordan Band (country/bluegrass)
If rainy weather the show will still go on—inside.
There are indeed a lot of choices for live music and Appalachian dance in Western North Carolina at this time of year. Besides group festivals, individual concerts are given throughout the area. In Brevard on August 17th Bela Fleck’s Blue Ridge Banjo Concert is taking place at the Brevard Music Center. August 24th, An Appalachian Evening Concert with the Kruger Brothers at the Stecoah Valley Center in Robbinsville will be held.
For more information, go to https://www.stecoahvalleycenter.com/events.html. Then, at the ISIS Music Hall in Asheville, on Sunday, August 25th is Blue Yonder with Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches. So yes, it is easy to say, these “Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music.”