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Dillsboro’s Colorfest Celebrates 15 Years of Appalachian Crafters

Photo courtesy of Colorfest

By Bellamy Crawford

Storyteller/performance duo Amy and Doreyl Ammons, affectionately known as the Ammons Sisters, spent several years traveling the Southeast to share tales of growing up in Jackson County. “Living on the backside of a mountain without plumbing or electricity, Doreyl and I had a lot of time to develop our craft,” Amy says. “People don’t really have that kind of opportunity anymore.”

To share their love of traditional Appalachian culture with a wider audience, they began to organize arts and culture festivals in several mountain towns. “We first teamed with Sylva to establish the Greening Up the Mountains festival, and then teamed with Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (GSMR) for Railfest Mountain Craft Fair in Bryson City,” says Amy. “So, we had a few successful festivals behind us when the Sylva Chamber of Commerce asked us to put on a festival in October, when the leaves in our region are so colorful.”

Colorfest, 15 years old this year, takes place Saturday, October 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in downtown Dillsboro. Returning to the festival this year are the J Creek Cloggers, who have participated for many years. “We love educating the audience about the history of clogging, and entertaining them, but we also enjoy having audience participation in square and line dancing,” says Kim Ross, the group’s founder.

Festival coordinator David Marker likes the fact that Colorfest brings attention to Dillsboro. “I’m excited that new visitors get to experience all that Dillsboro has to offer, from our craft studios to our vibrant culinary scene and great shopping experiences,” he says. “Folks will enjoy our small-town vibe and get to see the GSMR roll into town.”

The chamber originally asked the Ammons Sisters to produce the festival in Sylva, but Dillsboro is home to the Dogwood Crafters, a craft cooperative where many local artisans convene to work. “A lot of the artists at Dogwood were eager to show their work, so moving the festival to Dillsboro made a lot of sense,” Amy says.

Since its inception, Colorfest has grown into an event that attracts visitors from near and far. Although the festival reflects new work from many returning artists, it also welcomes new crafters, two of whom are the husband-and-wife team, Lynnice and Don Strong. “We have participated in events in Western North Carolina for 10 years now, but this is our first in Dillsboro,” Don says. “We’ll have handmade wind chimes, and jewelry made from silver plate flatware.”

Unfortunately, the beloved Ammons Sisters will not be performing this year, as Doreyl suffered a stroke two years ago and can no longer participate. But, visitors will still be able to visit with Amy, who will be at the festival selling the historical novels she and Doreyl have written together. “With our books, we’re still helping to honor our heritage with Appalachian stories so they aren’t forgotten,” says Amy.

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