Simpler times and simpler joys. These are the focus of a celebration of southern Appalachian culture on the 37th Annual Heritage Weekend, Saturday and Sunday, September 16 and 17. Sponsored by WNCW, this free glimpse into our mountain heritage is held by the Southern Highland Craft Guild (SHCG) and features traditional crafts accompanied by music and dancing at the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Folk Art Center.
“Heritage Weekend is one of the highlights of the year for the Southern Highland Craft Guild as it delves deeper into the cultural foundation of the organization,” says Hannah Barry, SHCG’s public relations manager. “So much of our history at the Guild is derived from the Appalachian lifestyle from the early 1900s, and is focused on how necessary it was to actually make. The best part is our emphasis on entertainment, both with traditional clogging and the World Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle Competition.”
A highlight of the weekend is the 37th Annual World Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle Competition on Saturday, from 2–3 p.m. A whimmy diddle is an Appalachian mountain toy traditionally made from two sticks of rhododendron. Notches are carved into one stick and a propeller is attached to the end. Rubbing the notches with the second stick makes the propeller spin. Can you get it to gee (spin to the right) and haw (spin to the left)? During the competition, contestants are judged on the number of rotations between gee and haw they can complete during a given time. All ages may compete with trophies and prizes given to the best child, adult and professional.
On Saturday, Anthony Cole will be on hand to demonstrate sheep shearing throughout the day, and on Sunday Joe Parham will bring animals to demonstrate how he trains dogs to work with sheep at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. A stage will provide bluegrass and gospel music. Local cloggers will demonstrate the energy and fancy footwork that goes into the mountain dance tradition. A quality lunch will be available from Farmhouse BBQ.
Ongoing demonstrations throughout the weekend include woodworking with traditional tools, weaving, spinning, dyeing, broom making, stone carving, and print making. Visitors will have the opportunity to try their own hand at some of the crafts and an activity table will encourage young people to create. There is free parking and a grassy area for picnics and relaxation.
“Heritage Weekend is a great way to honor and learn about the crafts of yesteryear,” says Barry. “Guests can also tour the Folk Art Center and maybe take a walk through the woods.”
The Folk Art Center is located at Milepost 382 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, just north of the Highway 70 entrance in east Asheville. Heritage Weekend hours are Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday noon to 4 p.m. For more information, including a list of participating craftspeople and musicians, call 828.298.7928 or visit craftguild.org.