Celebrate the arts, music and dance of Appalachia each autumn
As autumn’s vibrant reds and golds bring texture to the mountain landscape, many regional communities join together to honor the rich cultural heritage of the Appalachians. Since 1974, the season has drawn residents and visitors to the school’s pastoral Brasstown, North Carolina campus for the John C. Campbell Folk School Fall Festival, held the first weekend every October.
Along the Folk School’s wooded paths, festival goers will visit with several hundred regional crafts people presenting works for sale. The school’s well-equipped studios host traditional and contemporary craft demonstrations as part of the two-day event.
Children will enjoy a variety of activities such as pony rides and an alpaca petting zoo. The Humane Society’s pet adoption exhibit introduces kids to enthusiastic dogs ready to find their forever family. The Cherokee County Arts Council’s Kids’ Art tents offer free hands-on arts activities. Hungry festivalgoers can satisfy their appetites with a tasty lunch, dessert, or snack from vendors whose concession proceeds benefit non-profit and community organizations.
Always open during the fair, the folk school’s renowned Craft Shop offers fine crafts from over 500 juried regional artists, including the folk school’s own Brasstown Carvers. The initial impetus for the Brasstown Carvers came in 1931 when the folk school began holding twice-a-week carving sessions on campus.
Lively music and dance performances are an integral part of the Fall Festival’s flavor. The Festival Barn and Shady Grove stages host regional musicians who share bluegrass, gospel, Celtic, and folk songs. High-energy dancers will whirl across the stage during clogging, Morris, Rapper Sword, and Garland dance performances.
The Fall Festival offers generous free parking. Attendees can board a free Cherokee County Transit on-campus shuttle bus that travels between parking areas and Craft Shop and Festival Barn gates. Handicapped parking is provided in the gravel lot by Keith House and by the Fiber Arts Building. Admission covers festival, activities, and parking.
Historic rock school resurrected as craft destination
In the 1940s, work began on a school that today stands as the Cowee School Arts and Heritage Center. Constructed by the federal Works Progress Administration, the school was built entirely from local stone. The Cowee School opened to students in 1943, serving thousands of students until it was closed in 2012. Now re-opened as the Cowee School Arts and Heritage Center, the site continues to serve as an institution of learning, an outdoor venue, and host to a number of affiliates, classrooms, and programs. Among those programs are the Cowee Pottery School and Cowee Textiles.
The Cowee Pottery School serves those who have always wanted to get their hands muddy and create pottery, to play in clay. The school offers a range of an opportunity for independent study and pottery classes with difficulty levels ranging from introductory to experienced. Students purchase their clay from the school and have use of the wheels and kiln. Independent self-directed students have to use of the studio during open studio hours.
Cowee Textiles was began operating out of the school in 2013. Its goal is to pass on the art of weaving and spinning. The program teaches the textile arts from the basic fiber to finished products. There are multiple looms set up and weaving lessons offered. Students can make a rug or table running during a three-hour class. Recently, the program added millenary to its offerings, where students can make a hat. Once a month, Cowee Textiles hosts Fiber Sunday, where students, visitors, and residents can gather and share their love of working with fiber.
Cowee’s long history of culture
Located just north of Franklin, the historic community of Cowee was an important Cherokee commercial center.
In the late 1700s, William Bartram came through the area and took note of the size and sophistication of the town. A large mound and a council house occupied the center of the town. From there, houses lined both banks of the Little Tennessee River and Cherokee planters grew the “three sisters:” corn, beans, and squash. A smaller Cherokee village, Usinah, was located at the eastern end of the historic district. Cowee became part of the State of North Carolina in 1819, when the Cherokees were forced off their land.
Movement into the area increased around 1820 when William West took title to the land along Cowee Creek. West built a gristmill for his family and community. West’s Mill thrived through the first half of the 20th century, with most residents farming, mining, or logging. To serve the growing community, stores, schools, churches, and a post office were built, many of which still stand today. The Cowee-West’s Mill National Register Historic District encompasses 370 acres of Cherokee and settlement history.
A diversity of population continued at Cowee, when during the Civil War, Cowee became home to both freedmen and slaves. In the census of 1900, Cowee was the largest rural, black community in west of the Balsam Mountains. African American history can still be traced to the small Pleasant Hill AME Church and cemetery in the northeast corner of the historic district.
Much later, the Civilian Conservation Corps built a camp on this site. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was established in 1933 as a public works program during the Great Depression under newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR used existing agencies—the departments of War, Labor, Interior, and Agriculture—to quickly launch the program. Within 6 months of FDR’s inauguration, there were 250,000 recruits. By the time of its closure in 1942, the CCC had provided paid work, vocational education, food, shelter, and clothing for 3 million young men.
Tour a small town with big personalities and welcoming climate
Tryon quickly grew as a resort town, bringing tourists to the area to enjoy the mountain views and good climate. Many artists, writers and crafters chose to stay – at least for a while – including the stage actor William Gillette, most famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. This mix of locals, artists and retirees continues today, creating a vibrant, active community. Many of the historic buildings on Tryon’s Trade Street were in place by 1900, including a general store, pharmacy and post office. Buildings like these have contributed to Tryon receiving the designation of historic district by the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1915 Miss Eleanor Vance and Miss Charlotte Yale, co-founders of Biltmore Estate Industries, left Asheville and resettled in Tryon where they purchased a cottage and soon were training young boys and girls to handcraft finely-designed and beautifully-crafted toys. Vance and Yale’s little non-profit business, motivated by a desire to do good and to train young people in rewarding artist-work, eventually became the famous Tryon Toy Makers and Wood Carvers.
In 1928 two boys working for Tryon Toy Makers built a gigantic version of the popular little toy horse for a parade held in conjunction with the spring Tryon Horse Show, to advertise and celebrate Tryon Toy Makers. Their creation was so big that overhead wires along Trade Street had to be lifted out of the way in order for the Tryon Horse to participate in the procession. The toy makers also made miniature wheeled horse souvenirs to sell at the horse show. The giant horse was disassembled after the parade, stored in the basement at Hillcote, and brought out in subsequent years for the horse show parade. Eventually the Tryon Toy Makers donated it to the Tryon Riding and Hunt Club, eventually naming him “Morris” and creating a permanent position in the center of Tryon where he can be visited any time. See the photo on this page. Listen to this short Living Traditions Moments presentation about the Tryon Toy Makers.
Tryon Wine Country
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Tryon was well known for its table and wine grapes. Due to prohibition, family businesses related to wine dried up over time. Beginning in the early 1990s, this interesting part of Tryon’s history was revived–the planting of grapes for winemaking. About a dozen vineyards now lie about 10 miles to the east in the Tryon foothills. This area, with its gentle, rolling hills and clay-loam soils, has proven to be an excellent location for vinifera grapes. Five wineries welcome visitors for tasting, tours and beautiful mountain views.
Visitors stroll down Trade Street and enjoy the shops and restaurants. They may catch a movie at the tiny Tryon Theater or a performance at the Tryon Fine Arts Center. Scenic drives include a drive through the architecturally rich neighborhoods of Gillette Woods and Godshaw Hill; through the horse estates on Hunting Country Road; or along the Pacolet River Scenic Byway (Hwy 176). Or picnic at Harmon Field and peruse the nearby antique stores.
March: Super Saturday– Also known as the Children’s Theater Festival, this is a one-day festival of “lively arts” for children. Eight to ten different performances encompassing theater, music, storytelling, mime, dance, puppetry and more are brought to Tryon on a Saturday in late March
May:Block House Steeple Chase– Horses and races, tailgate picnics and crazy hat contests, friendly people and a whole lot of fun! Run by the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club.
Festival features competition cookers, two music stages, the Foothills Craft Fair and children’s rides. Admission includes parking. Held the second Friday and Saturday in June each year. Run by the Carolina Foothills Chamber of Commerce.
Summer – June through September
Summer Tracks at Rogers Park – Named for the RR tracks running through the park, enjoy this series of FREE Friday night summer concerts. Schedule available at the Tryon Visitors Center, Polk County Travel & Tourism Office, and online.
Typically held in early November, the Annual Tryon Beer Fest runs from noon until 6pm in the Tryon Depot Plaza. Tickets are sold in advance (online and at local retailers) and at the gate (cash only). Festival only (“Designated Driver”) tickets are also available at the gate (cash only).Admission includes unlimited beer and wine samples.
An array of craft beers are available, along with an oyster roast, authentic German food, non-alcoholic beverages and water. Live Bavarian music entertains during the day, followed by a live rock band later in the afternoon. This is a rain or shine event, under the sun or under a heated tent, depending on the weather.
December:Tryon Christmas Stroll
Tryon Downtown Development Association members serve refreshments at their businesses. Santa listens to children’s wish lists. Carolers make joyful noises. Friday night early in December – Small town Christmas at its charming best!
Before 1856, when no more than 10 families lived on what was then known as Pleasant Hill, education was important to the parents who founded an academy to educate their children.
The French Broad Baptist Institute, as it was known, eventually evolved into Mars Hill College. When the village of Mars Hill was incorporated in 1893, the corporate limits were set at 900 yards in all directions from the northwest corner of the first college building. The name Mars Hill is said to have been inspired by a Biblical passage, Acts 17:22, which says, “Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill and said, ‘Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.’”
As the college grew, so did the town. A general store was built, a doctor’s office established, and boarding houses opened for college students. The year 1913 was a boom year for the growing community. Several new buildings were erected, including two stores, a bank building, general store, and a drug store. Many of the homes and the businesses built during this time can be seen in Mars Hill today.
Mars Hill University
Mars Hill University served the academic needs of a growing community and became one of the premiere two-year private colleges in the nation. In 1962, it reached four-year status, and in 2013, the institution changed its name to Mars Hill University to reflect the institution’s expansion, both in terms of enrollment and variety of offerings. The school identifies itself closely with the history and culture of this area and the wide Southern Appalachian area.
Music at Mars Hill
The college and the town itself are inextricably linked to the traditional music of Appalachia. Musician, folklorist, and festival organizer Bascom Lamar Lunsford, a Mars Hill native, dedicated his life to collecting and promoting the music of the Southern Appalachians. Through his work he became known as “Minstrel of the Appalachians.”
In 1927 Lunsford organized the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville, which has been in existence ever since. He organized many other festivals, performed extensively, and composed songs, including the famous “Mountain Dew.”
The Rural Heritage Museum is on the campus of Mars Hill University. Its exhibits and programming focus on educating students and visitors to the lifeways of the Southern Appalachians. Open year-round, 11 am to 5 pm, except Mondays, and Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s days.
The Liston Ramsey Center for Regional Studies is in the Renfro Library on the campus. The extensive collection of photographs, manuscripts, sound recordings, and artifacts document aspects of mountain life and culture, including an exhibit of Cherokee artifacts, some of which date back to 10,000 BC. Bascom Lamar Lunsford’s instruments are on display along with an extensive scrapbook of his writings and manuscripts to rival the one in the Library of Congress.
Whether presenting Broadway musicals or world-premiere original works, SART offers the highest quality professional productions, with one play each season which has a special emphasis on the rich culture and heritage of the people of Appalachia.
Blackberry Festival—Held annually in August, celebrating some of the finest blackberries grown anywhere. Bascom Lamar Lunsford Festival—Held the first Saturday in October, in conjunction with the Heritage Festival. Both festivals are on the campus of Mars Hill University, and both celebrate the traditional music, crafts, and cuisine of the region.
The tallest dam east of the Rockies at 480 feet, Fontana Dam was was built by the Tennessee Valley Authority in response to an urgent need for electric power during World War II; construction began in 1942 and was finished in just 36 months.
Surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Nantahala National Forest, and deep river gorges, Fontana ranks among the most beautiful dams in the world. In addition to providing hydroelectric power and flood control for the region, the lake created behind the dam on the Little Tennessee River is a popular site for many kinds of outdoor recreation.
Boating and Fishing
Fontana Reservoir provides 238 miles of shoreline and 10,230 acres of water surface for recreational activities. Several marinas service the lake, including Fontana Marina, the nearest to the dam itself, which offers watercraft and equipment rentals including pontoon boats, canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards. Lake excursions are available, with knowledgable guides relating the history of the region and the dam. Views from the water reveal the pristine nature of the surrounding lands.
Largemouth bass, whitefish, catfish, pike, and bluegills abound in the reservoir, and because of its deep water, fishermen often find such northern species as walleye, muskie, and smallmouth bass.
The Appalachian Trail crosses Fontana Dam, which stretches 2,365 feet across the Little Tennessee River. The hot showers available at the trail shelter, maintained by the TVA, have led hikers to dub it the Fontana Hilton.
The Fontana Dam Visitor Center is located off N.C. Highway 28 near the Tennessee/North Carolina state line. It is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily from May through October except major holidays. Newly refurbished and staffed by TVA retirees, the visitor center has updated maps, videos, and displays about TVA and the construction of the dam.
Historic Fontana Village
With a history reaching back more than 100 years into the logging and mining industries that flourished in the area at the turn of the 19th century, Fontana Village today is a year-round vacation destination resort, with a lodge, cabins, campgrounds, marina, and programming that includes traditional music, car club and motorcycle gatherings, outdoor activities and special holiday events.
Perched on the crest of the Blue Ridge atop the Eastern Continental Divide, the Orchard at Altapass occupies a unique spot in both America’s landscape and history. The Orchard has been a vital travel route since the earliest settlers began exploring these mountains. Buffalo and elk traversed here, followed by the Cherokee and eventually European settlers.
Early settlers defied British attempts to make peace with the Indians by disallowing settlement to the west of the mountains. Their resentment of British rule culminated when they formed the Overmountain Men during the Revolutionary War, marching to King’s Mountain and handing the British a stinging defeat recognized as a turning point of the conflict.
America’s industrialization came to the area in the 1890s. The Orchard’s location on the lowest pass through the Blue Ridge in the surrounding 100 miles ensured that the nation’s railroad barons would find it.
In 1908 the Clinchfield Railroad opened, complete with an engineering marvel: the Clinchfield loops, consisting of 18 tunnels in 13 miles of track built beside and below the present-day Orchard.
The arrival of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the 1930s was yet another key chapter in the Orchard’s history dictated by geography. Today the Orchard is one of the most popular stops along the Parkway.
In 1995, Bill Carson and his family purchased the Orchard and now operates it today as a non-profit dedicated to preserving local history and lore, heritage apple varieties, and traditional music, and storytelling.
To help preserve local culture the Orchard offers free live music Wednesday through Sunday in May through September, and weekends in October.
Take part in the ever-popular Storytelling Hayride, a 45-minute journey through time, which begins on the old path of the Revolutionary War soldiers called the Overmountain Men. The hayride continues through the orchard, past old and young trees, with spectacular scenery for the entire route. Hayrides are offered every Saturday and Sunday.
In addition to hayrides, the Orchard offers guided storytelling walks and guided nature walks on beautiful trails.
The store and music venue have been completely remodeled and there are now dedicated areas for: kids’ activities, history, butterflies, honey bees, and books. All proceeds from the store help to support the mission of the Altapass Foundation.
Location and Operating Hours
The Orchard is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 328.3, outside the town of Spruce Pine, NC. The Orchard is open 10 AM to 5 PM every day of the week except Tuesdays from May to October. The Orchard is open everyday of the week during the month of October.
‘Along About Sundown’ at the nation’s oldest folk festival
The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, founded by Bascom Lamar Lunsford in 1928, is the country’s longest running folk festival. Mountain fiddlers, banjo pickers, dulcimer sweepers, dancers, balladeers and others have come to enjoy themselves “along about sundown” the first weekend in August.
The festival formally showcases an amazing repertoire of mountain performers – old-timers as well as the newest generation of bluegrass and mountain string bands, ballad singers, big circle mountain dancers and cloggers – who share music and dance that echo centuries of Scottish, English, Irish, Cherokee and African heritage. The popular and long-standing house band the Stoney Creek Boys returns to perform each evening. And each night of the festival features both well-known musicians and new talent alike, representative of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and its continuing traditions.
In 2018, performers at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival will take to the stage for the 91st time at Mission Health/A-B Tech Conference Center, 340 Victoria Road, Asheville, NC on Thursday through Saturday, August 2, 3 & 4. The show begins at 6:30 pm nightly. Tickets available on-line here.
Waynesville is the largest city west of Asheville. It is Haywood County’s oldest town and the Haywood County seat, framed by mountain vistas, vast national forest lands and clear, rushing streams. It is also where team square dancing originated in the 1930s.
The Town of Waynesville was founded in 1809 by Colonel Robert Love, a Revolutionary War soldier. He donated land for the courthouse, jail and public square, and named the town after his commander in the war, General “Mad” Anthony Wayne. The Town of Waynesville was incorporated in 1871.
For many years visitors have traveled to Waynesville to enjoy the cool clean air, clean water, outstanding scenery and an opportunity to escape the crowded cities.
Main Street’s tree lined brick sidewalks offer pedestrian access to fine shops, galleries, cafés and restaurants. Historic buildings, relaxing benches, public art, and welcoming folks make Waynesville an enjoyable place to live and visit.
Parks, Museums and Arts Centers
Founded in 1977, The Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts at the Shelton House is a repository and cultural exhibit preserving and displaying traditional crafts by some of the states’ most renowned artisans. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Charleston style farmhouse was built in 1875 for Stephen Jehu Shelton, a Civil War veteran and Haywood County sheriff. Exhibits include period furnishings and antiques, folk art, and collections of pottery, wood carving, basketry, metalwork, weaving, quilting, marquetry and other fine crafts. Open May-October.
The award-winning Haywood Arts Regional Theater features a full schedule of performances. Widely known as one of the finest community theaters in the southeast, the theater presents shows on the main stage at the Shelton House, April through December, and in the Feichter Studio, January through April.
Ten to twelve rotating artists’ exhibits are shown annually at the Haywood County Arts Council’s Gallery 86, a creative showcase on Main Street in the historic downtown. Special music and art events are held there throughout the year.
The town of Waynesville has many parks and greenways that afford visitors and residents alike the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and beatuiful scenery of the area.
Festivals and Events
On the first Friday each month between May and December, Downtown Waynesville Galleries remain open until 9 pm for “Art After Dark,” with demonstrations, artist receptions, and music.
Mountain Street Dances enliven downtown Waynesville on four summer Friday nights. Put on your clogging and square dancing shoes and enjoy an old-fashioned mountain hoe down at the historic County Courthouse! Live mountain music, demonstrations and instruction by local clogging teams.
In July, Waynesville goes international, hosting Folkmoot USA, the State International Festival of North Carolina. This two-week celebration of the world’s cultural heritage through folk music and dance beings with a parade of nationns down Main Street featuring performances, a parade and workshops. Performers demonstrate their cultural heritage through colorful, authentic and original reproduction costumes, lively dance and traditional music.
On Labor Day Weekend the annual Smoky Mountain Folk Festival, held at Stuart Auditorium at nearby Lake Junaluska, offers two nights of the finest traditional music and dance of the Southern Appalachian Region.
The Church Street Art and Craft Show is held in October on Main Street in downtown. Now in its 30th year, this event showcases the area’s arts, craft and music heritage.
Tailgate Farmers Markets
The Waynesville Farmers Market is open May through October, held on Wednesday and Saturday mornings on Legion Drive, just off Main Street. Vendors offer fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers grown in Haywood County.
Waynesville is easily accessed from Interstate 40/US 74 on the north, and US 23/74 from the south. Parkway travelers can take the Waynesville exit at Balsam Gap.
The Caldwell Heritage Museum opened in 1991 and is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history of Caldwell County, North Carolina,
primarily through about two dozen permanent exhibits and rotating special exhibits.
The museum’s space is being utilized for a chronological history of Caldwell County from pre-colonial days until the present, in a series of exhibits. Among the articles are Native American spears and arrow points, early maps, grants, and deeds. There is also information and pictures about the formation of Caldwell County, as well as the establishment of the town of Lenoir as the county seat and its development into a railroad terminus and furniture manufacturing center. The museum also has several special interest collections: medical, music, military, and cameras. Several special collections of loaned items are featured for short periods of time each year.
The purpose of the Caldwell Heritage Museum is to preserve the history of Caldwell County for future generations. The Museum is supported by private donations and is governed by a Board of Directors who are incorporated as the Caldwell Heritage Museum, Inc. Members of the board are elected by the Caldwell County Historical Society.
Hours of Operation
Tuesday through Friday : 10 am to 4:30 pm
Saturday : 9 am to noon
There is no admission charge, but donations for the operation of the Museum are appreciated.
The original settlement of Lenoir was first known as Tucker’s Barn after the family that settled on the north side of Lower Creek around 1765. The Tucker homestead became a gathering place, serving as voting precinct, muster ground, store and a place for “frolics” and celebrations. When Caldwell County was formed in 1841, a commission was appointed to select a county seat. The site of “Tucker’s Barn,” was chosen and new county seat was named Lenoir in honor of Revolutionary War hero General William Lenoir, who later became a trustee of the University of North Carolina.
Hogwaller and the Birth of Southern Furniture Manufacturing
Prior to the Civil War, Lenoir’s economy was based on agriculture with large farms producing cotton, corn and some tobacco. Hogwaller, a marketplace for bartering farm produce and animals, thrived in the center of town. Davenport College, a school for young women flourished. Four opera houses, a large library and a rich tradition of musical and artistic talent led one newspaper of the time to describe Lenoir as the “Athens of western North Carolina.” By late 1880, the development of a locally-owned rail line and the abundant natural resources of water and timber set the stage for the birth of the furniture manufacturing industry. From 1889, when T.H. Broyhill formed the Lenoir Furniture Company, until the twenty-first century, the furniture industry in Lenoir produced fine hand-crafted furniture that graced homes in over 30 different countries.
Globalization, Google and “Across the Grain”
With the coming of globalization to American manufacturing, Lenoir began rebuilding and diversifying its economy. Internet giant Google selected Lenoir as the site of one of its largest data storage facilities in 2007. The diversity of architecture of the historic buildings in the Lenoir Downtown National Register Historic District and the quality of the pieces in Caldwell County’s Outdoor Sculpture Collection, reflect Lenoir’s heritage of craftsmanship and artistic talent. Home to more pieces of outdoor sculpture than any other community of its size in the United States, Lenoir attracted the attention of renowned sculptor Thomas Sayre, who created and installed a massive earthcast sculpture “Across the Grain” in downtown Lenoir.
Parks, Museums & Art Centers
The twenty acre T.H. Broyhill Walking Park offers a .43 mile walking trail around a beautifully landscaped lake. The park is home to the Joe T. Ingram Nature Sanctuary for waterfowl and botanical gardens. Visitors to Lenoir can get a glimpse of the history of Western North Carolina at the Caldwell Heritage Museum. The museum is home to two dozen permanent exhibits and features rotating special exhibits thorough out the year. Runners, walkers, cyclists and skaters can enjoy the 5.6 miles of paved trails that make up the Lenoir Greenway.
Remember the sweet goodness of a juicy blackberry on a summer day? You can enjoy that experience and more—without the chiggers—at the annual NC Blackberry Festival in July. Fabulous Family Films and Friday After Five on the Square are just two of the annual summer events series held at the Stage on the Square in downtown Lenoir. Described as “100 miles of pure hill” The Bridge cycling event begins in Lenoir and ends at Grandfather Mountain each September. The annual Sculpture Celebration attracts thousands of art lovers each September.
The Lenoir Downtown Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 2 pm to 6 pm. The market is a Producer Only market as it only sells what it makes and grows. The market belongs to the Appalachian Agriculture Sustainable Project. It offers fresh local produce, crafts, candles, BBQ Sauce, herbal tea’s, herbs, canned goods, wood crafts, flowers and jewelry. The market even has a massage tharapist, kids korner and community booth. Buy Local, Buy Fresh, Buy Quality.
The Old-Time Music Heritage Hall provides an opportunity for visitors and residents to learn more about the musicians whose powerful art brought thousands to Surry County to learn – and set the stage for the lively old-time scene that continues today.
The lobby of the Old-Time Music Heritage Hall houses artifacts from Surry County’s old-time music icons. Portraits and storyboards line the walls. Biographies of the old-time musicians featured in the hall were compiled by folklife specialist, Trish Kilby Fore.
Folkways: Music of Surry County plays continuously on the movie screen in the Hall. This UNC-TV Folkways documentary reveals why the intense, bluesy, fiddle-driven Surry County sound has become synonymous around the world with American old-time music.
Other documentaries and photos are shown in the mezzanine of the EARLE where jamming takes place weekly – or as the mood strikes! The EARLE hosts ongoing events that serve to preserve, promote, and protect Surry County’s musical heritage.
Hours of Operation
11 am to 3pm
9 am to 4 pm
1 pm to 3:30 pm
Admission is $5 per person and includes the audio guide, a wrist band for admission to the Andy Griffith Museum, the Mount Airy – Mayberry Exhibit, The Siamese Twins Exhibit, and the Mount Airy Photo Club’s Photo Gallery.
Before there was a state of North Carolina, indeed before there was a United States of America, as early as the 1750s settlers began to gather in the area now known as Mount Airy. A stopover point on a much-traveled road that ran from Salem, NC, into Virginia, the community grew into a small town by the 1830s.
A Frontier Town
The origin of the town’s name is uncertain, but widely accepted local tradition holds that the name was taken from the “Mount Airy” plantation which was established along the stage road in the early 1800s. The town originally served as a frontier commercial and trading center for the surrounding rural area and remained very small during the early part of the 1800s. During the mid-1800s the town’s frontier economy gradually grew into one based on agriculture and manufacturing, and by 1860 the small town had a population of 300.
The Railroad Brings Economic Revitalization
The economy of Mount Airy was severely damaged during the civil war and the period of reconstruction that followed. However, by the late 1870s and early 1880s, with tobacco as the area’s major industry, the economy again thrived. The construction of the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad to Mount Airy in the late 1880s provided the catalyst that spurred the successful commercial exploitation of Mount Airy’s two greatest natural resources – granite and lumber.
During the 1890s commercial development of the large granite quarry, located just east of downtown Mount Airy began. The area, known locally as “Flat Rock,” was developed into the largest open faced granite quarry in the world and provided Mount Airy with its popular nickname, “Granite City.” Although the town’s growth slowed considerably in the early 20th century, it remains today a vibrant and progressive community.
Mount Airy’s other famous pseudonym springs from it being the model for the small town of “Mayberry” on the popular Andy Griffith TV show in the mid-20th century. Mount Airy is the boyhood home of Andy Griffith, and his house is now owned by the Hampton Inn chain and is available for rental. Fans can also visit Andy’s favorite haunts on the show, including the Snappy Lunch, Floyd’s Barbershop, Opie’s Candy Store, Mayberry Soda Fountain and the Old City jail with Andy’s police car. Each year the community celebrates “Mayberry Days” with a four-day festival that includes a major golf tournament, concerts, a parade, and much more.
Parks & Museums
The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History is housed in a former mercantile store on Main Streeet. Exhibits in this 35,000 square foot, four-story museum tell the story of the development of “the hollow”, as this region is known, and include the Native American story, the history of the largest open-faced granite quarry in the world, pioneer life, and the rich history of the Old Time music heritage that is unique to Surry County.
The Andy Griffith Museum contains a large collection of Andy Griffith memorabilia including hundreds of items from the life and career of Andy Griffith in movies, television and music.
There’s a jam session every Thursday evening from 7 – 8:30.
On Saturdays, there’s another jam from 9 – 11 am, followed by the WPAQ Merry-Go-Round from 11 am -1:30 pm, the second longest running live radio broadcast in the nation, with different guests each week. ($5 ticket includes both the jam and the Merry Go Round.)
An Old Time dance with the Slate Mountain Ramblers is held the first Saturday night of every month except June. $5 for adults; children 12 & under free.
Surry County is home to a distinct style of Old Time music known as the “Round Peak” style, named for the rural area of Round Peak. The Old Time Music Heritage Hall features exhibits that tell the rich history of Surry County music.
Mount Airy Parks & Recreation maintains several parks in the community, including Riverside Park, which features picnic shelters, restrooms, a lighted soccer field, playground, canoe launch and greenway. Westwood Park is a wooded site with nature trails, two lighted ballfields, playground equipment, fitness stations, disc golf (9 holes), mountain bike trails, community fishing pond, shelter, restroom facilities and paved parking.
Many of Mount Airy’s local attractions include those related to the Andy Griffith heritage of the town, including Squad Car Tours, Mayberry Mules and Wagon Rides, Andy Griffith Playhouse, Andy Griffith’s Homeplace, Floyd’s Barber Shop, Old City Jail, Opie’s Candy Store, Snappy Lunch and Wally’s Service Station.