10th Anniversary Celebration - Gather 'Round the Blue Ridge 2013


More than 200 partners and friends gathered to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area at this year's annual meeting, Gather 'Round the Blue Ridge.

Board members and the Executive Director of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership welcomed guests for the festive occasion, presented a professional video highlighting many of the accomplishments of the past decade, and honored five people with the new Laurel Award.  Mark Woods, the new Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway greeted the group.

Laurel Awards

A new award was created for this anniversary and will be given in years to come to individuals and organizations in recognition of their outstanding service, collaboration, and the promotion of the five legacies--natural,agricultural, craft, music and Cherokee heritage upon which the designation was founded--to our country and the world.

The Laurel Award is sort of like our very own “Oscar.”  We chose the Laurel as a symbol for this recognition, because it is native to these mountains, and its beautiful blossom is treasured by all who see it.  The award itself, a beautiful piece of glass artwork created by Ben Elliott of Burnsville, epitomizes the natural  beauty of our region and the beauty and worth of our handmade objects. 

Laurel Awards were given to Becky Anderson and Betty Huskins, two of the founders of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, without whose diligence and commitment the designation would never have happened.

Leesa Brandon and Rob Bell were recipients of the Laurel Award for their Outstanding Service.  Both Rob and Leesa have been part of the Heritage Area work since its inception, mostly contributing their valuable skills and commitment behind the scenes.

The final Laurel Award went to musician, historian, storyteller, television host and entertainer David Holt.  He was named the "Heritage Hero" of the year for his dedication to performing and preserving traditional American music and stories. David plays ten acoustic instruments, has released numerous award winning recordings of traditional mountain music and southern folktales, and is a four-time Grammy Award winner. 

The founder of the Appalachian Music Program at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, David has also lent his support and encouragement to countless Heritage Area initiatives over the years, most recently the Blue Ridge Music Trails. The songs and tales our recipient has collected for the past twenty years have become a part of the permanent collection of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. State Department has sponsored his performances in many parts of the world as a musical ambassador, taking the sounds of the music of our Blue Ridge Mountains to such diverse lands as Nepal, Thailand, South America and Africa.

Video Presentation - "Making a Difference Together"

Take a look at a review of our beautiful mountains and culture and all that the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area has accomplished with its partners in Western North Carolina over the past ten years. Produced for the BRNHA by Casablanca Digital Media.

Tourism Trends Examined

A presentation by Steve Morse, Ph.D., Economist and Director of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Western Carolina University,  focused on Trends and Tourism in the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area.  His research showed that Western North Carolina was among the fastest growing tourism regions in the state.  Click here to see the Power Point of his presentation.

Early Results of BRNHA Economic Impact Study Revealed 

Executive Director Angie Chandler presented "hot of the press" information from an economic impact study commissioned by the BRNHA.  With a sample of only 18 sites and venues in the study, the preliminary findings show that the Heritage Tourism sector contributes over $2.4 billion to our economy, which in turn contributes over $182 million in tax revenue to local and state governments.  This economic activity supports 31,000 jobs. Click here to see the power point presentation.

Music in the Air!

The attendees were wonderfully entertained during the gathering time by John Cloyd Miller from the band Red June.  John is a Junior Appalachian Musician instructor in Buncombe County, and was also recently awarded a NC Artist Fellowship for songwriting by the North Carolina Arts Council to support the creative development of NC artists.  

And closing out the program were the dynamic performers Balsam Range. The five members of the band—Buddy Melton, Darren Nicholson, Marc Pruett, Caleb Smith, and Tim Surrett, all natives of Haywood and Jackson Counties—all have established reputations as distinguished bluegrass and gospel musicians, are members of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area’s juried Traditional Artist Directory and are featured in the Blue Ridge Music Trails of Western North Carolina guidebook.

The band's most recent recording, Papertown, won the 2013 International Bluegrass Music Association Award for Album of the Year, after spending five consecutive months at the top spot on the Bluegrass Unlimited National Bluegrass Survey Chart.  Their performance was met with a standing ovation and was a great treat at the end of the day!

A special thanks to our partners who donated to another successful Silent Auction! We raised over $1600 with your help!

Fontana Village Resort, Hannah Belle Photography, Crowne Plaza, Appalachain Sustainable Agriculture Project, Merlefest, Eastern National, REI, Chimney Rock Park, Mast General Store, Watagua County TDA, Brown's Pottery, Western Regional Archives, Tweetsie Railroad, Swannanoa Valley Museum, Grove Park Inn, Southern Highland Craft Guild, WNCW 88.7, Trader Joes, Chetola Resort, Ale House, John C. Campbell Folk School, Nantahala Outdoor Center, Diana Wortham Theatre, Smoky Mountain Native Plants Association, Grandfather Mountain, and Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center.



The BRNHA will be resuming our regular time frame for Gather ‘Round in August 2014. The keynote speak will be famed producer and writer, Dayton Duncan, co-creator with Kens Burns of the National Park Series Documentary. We hope to see you there!

Thanks to our sponsors!