Catch the Spirit of Appalachia (CSA) is a nonprofit resource organization founded by the Ammons sisters, Amy Ammons Garza and Doreyl Ammons Cain. CSA directs several local festivals’ heritage and traditional arts components, teaches children about mountain heritage, and publishes work by Western North Carolina writers (64 books as of 2012).
Catch the Spirit of Appalachia produces an hour-radio show weekly entitled Stories of Mountain Folk, an all-sound oral history collection, with a goal of honoring and saving the heritage of the area. Six interviewers go into the homes of the mountain folk to record them in their own environment, capturing the traditions, the arts, the music and the history of local families. The program is heard on WRGC Radio 540 in Jackson County, then goes online for a week, and then is archived by the Hunter Library at Western Carolina University. CSA also co-sponsors three Heritage Alive! Mountain Youth Talent Contests, a traditional music competition held in Jackson, Macon, and Swain Counties, and coordinates traditional arts festivals in Jackson and Swain Counties.
For a quarter-century, the Ammons Sisters of CSA have been visiting schools and festivals to share the family stories they learned growing up in Jackson County. In their Heritage Alive! performances, Amy tells stories while Doreyl illustrates them at an easel onstage, creating drawings that are then given to the host schools to keep. CSA’s work draws upon the sisters’ seven generations of family heritage in the North Carolina mountains. The Ammons sisters perform at many schools and libraries throughout North Carolina and the south, and CSA has long-standing relationships with school districts across the region.
In 2013, Catch the Spirit of Appalachia received the prestigious Mountain Heritage Award from the Mountain Heritage Center at Western Carolina University in recognition of the organization’s contributions to preserving and interpreting Southern Appalachian history and culture.
CSA offers Heritage Alive! storytelling performances and traditional arts events throughout the year. Radio interviews are on a weekly basis. Publishing is available throughout the year.