Gather ‘Round the Blue Ridge, the annual meeting of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, is a special time for everyone who is involved in the preservation, interpretation, development and promotion of the heritage and culture of Western North Carolina to come together to share experiences, network, and get an update on the activities of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. Here’s an overview of last year’s meeting.
2017 Celebrating Our Mountain Foodways
Sept. 7, 2017
Highland Event Center
Agriculture is one of the five legacies that the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area preserves and promotes year round along with natural beauty, arts and crafts, traditional music and Cherokee heritage. Gather ‘Round the Blue Ridge gave us the opportunity to explore this asset with interesting ideas to chew over, along with great food and fellowship at our annual meeting.
Angie Chandler, BRNHA Executive Director, updated the audience on the many accomplishments this past year, including the completion of the Blue Ridge Heritage Trail across the region, and the launch of a new project, the Blue Ridge Craft Trails that will showcase our region’s rich array in both traditional and contemporary crafts. Angie also pointed to the continuing success of the Blue Ridge Music Trails, connecting more visitors with traditional music heard on stages across the mountains.
Rob Bell, our Senior Program Director, highlighted BRNHA’s many grants to innovative projects across the region, including the Cherokee Tour Guide training and a new authentic fencing at the Oconaluftee Visitors Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Starli McDowell, the Mission Manager for the Altapass Foundation, shared exciting videos from the Orchard at Altapass, a treasured stop for music, dance and history on the Parkway and along the Blue Ridge Music Trails.
Arts and culture create real jobs and paychecks in our mountains. Wayne Martin, Executive Director of the N.C. Arts Council, shared new data from the Americans in Arts Prosperity Study. Arts and culture nonprofits in Western North Carolina pumped $239.9 million directly into the regional economy, supporting 7,000 full-time jobs in 2015, Wayne told the audience.
Ronni Lundy, awarding winning author of Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes. In her keynote address, Ronni offered a fascinating look at the region’s rich history of foodways, built on the crops first cultivated by the Cherokee including corn, squash and beans. Appalachia is a rich mix of cultures and foods, including influences from the Spanish, German, African-Americans and others who settled our coves and hollers along with the Scottish-Irish.
Ronni’s talk whetted the audience’s appetite for the luncheon, which included cornbread and a berry cobbler made from her cookbook’s recipes by the caterer Colorful Palate.
Roger Kumpf of Congressman McHenry’s Office
and Robin Ramsey with Sen. Burr’s staff
Thanks again to our major sponsors, Highland Brewing, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, Forever Mountain and RomanticAsheville.com. And thanks to the many supporters of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. Together we can protect and promote our diverse mountain culture to knowledgeable visitors, while growing a sustainable future for all our residents.