CULLOWHEE – Mountain Heritage Day, the annual community and campus celebration of Southern Appalachian culture presented by Western Carolina University since 1974, will not happen this year.
Organizers said the decision to not hold the 2020 festival was a reluctant one, made with a forecast by public health experts that a second wave of coronavirus cases will likely occur this fall. Always held on the last Saturday in September, Mountain Heritage Day regularly draws crowds of 15,000 or more.
“We have to put the community’s well-being first. And we felt it was best to make an announcement as soon as possible, out of consideration to the many musicians, vendors, artisans and craftsmen, as well as our guests, who make Mountain Heritage Day a success, year after year,” said Stacy MacGregor, event chair and the university’s director of marketing and brand.
The festival is known for bluegrass, old-time and traditional music performances throughout the day, a morning 5K race organized and hosted by students in WCU’s sport management program, chainsaw and timber sports competitions, an antique and classic car and truck show, Cherokee stickball games and plenty of festival food, along with tractor rides, storytelling and sing-alongs.
The festival started as Founders’ Day on Oct. 26, 1974, at the inauguration ceremony of WCU Chancellor H.F. “Cotton” Robinson, and became known as Mountain Heritage Day the following year. The festival is renowned for family activities and has been named as one of the top 20 festivals in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society.
“Mountain Heritage Day will be back,” MacGregor said. “We’ll bring people together again in a safe, fun environment where the only worry is what to see or do next. Perhaps the best way to look at it is we now have a head start on the best festival yet in 2021.”