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Mountain Dance and Folk Festival

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Bascom Lamar Lunsford founded the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival as a means for people to share and understand the beauty and dignity of the Southern Appalachian music and dance traditions that have been handed down through generations in western North Carolina. He saw the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival grow to be the oldest gathering of its kind in the nation and it continues in this way, a platform for the talented of the high country lying between the Great Smoky and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Since 1928, the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival has served a crucial role in raising awareness and understanding of the vitality and importance of Southern Appalachian culture throughout the region, nation and world. Bascom Lunsford's mission was to present the finest of the Appalachian ballad singers, string bands and square dance teams for education and entertainment. The songs and dances shared at this event echo centuries of Scottish, English, Irish, Cherokee and African heritage found in the valleys and coves between the Great Smokies and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Lunsford's was the first dubbed a folk festival, and he later consulted with many communities across the country interested in organizing similar festivals.

Author of Minstrel of the Appalachians: The Story of Bascom Lamar Lunsford. University of Kentucky Press, reprint 2002.

Western North Carolina native Bascom Lamar Lunsford developed, from an early age, a passion for the ballads, folk songs, and dances of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. As a young boy, he began playing the banjo and fiddle, learning many songs, tunes and dances from his neighbors. By the time Lunsford settled in Buncombe County, then an attorney and gentleman farmer, he had also established himself as a well known singer, musician and collector, the General Phonograph Corporation already having released two disks with four of his songs.

In 1928, the Asheville Chamber of Commerce planned to stage the Rhododendron Festival to call attention to the beauty and climate of what the promoters had taken to calling the 'Land of the Sky.' Chamber officials approached Lunsford to arrange a folk song and dance program as a part of the Festival, which also included handicraft displays, romantic pageants, and beautiful baby contests.

Lunsford recruited five square dance clubs to compete for prizes and invited ballad singers, fiddlers, banjo pickers and string bands to entertain on Pack Square. Five thousand people descended upon downtown Asheville and were backed up against office buildings, draped across Zeb Vance's statue and hanging out of the windows of local businesses. The Asheville Citizen described the music as a "...throwback from the modern jazz world..." and went on to say that it should be "...a permanent thing, something that might be continued from year to year as a festival of Western North Carolina -- on the order of the great festivals of older nations which have been handed down from generation to generation."

Like any event, though, the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival has had its ups and downs. With the coming of television, social activation, the Civil Rights movement, Rock and Roll, and other attractions, the audience dwindled in the early 1960s. However, the folk revival of the late 1960s rekindled interest in the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, the oldest festival of its kind in the country. People from all over the United States had moved to Western North Carolina as part of the back-to-the-land movement, and many of these young people were drawn to the folk arts as an example of the simple and honest lives they were seeking. Also, many tourists loved to return to Asheville during the Festival to get an annual taste of Appalachian folk arts. Thus the 1960s stood for a time of rebirth for the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, which continues to cater to sold out shows through its 75th yea

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Details and Specs

Event Date: Aug 01, 2013 07:00 PM - Aug 03, 2013 12:00 AM
Hours of Operation: Not Listed
Notes: None Listed


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