• Dancing is a big part of the entertainment on the Festival Barn stage. Sticks in the Mud Morris Dancers will perform Saturday and Sunday. Photo courtesy of John C. Campbell Folk School

Fall Festival is homecoming for the mountains

   Brasstown – Two years ago, there was a hole in the heart of the mountains.
   Flooding caused the cancellation of the 2015 Fall Festival at John C. Campbell Folk School, marking the first time in more than four decades that the event was not held on the first weekend of October.
   Last year, the festival returned in all its glory, showing locals and visitors alike the best of what life in the mountains has to offer.
   “It was really strange when it did not happen,” said Annie Fain Barralon, the music and dance coordinator for the folk school. “This weekend every year is like a homecoming. There are people I went to high school with who I never see who I only catch up with at the Fall Festival.”
   That chance comes again this weekend, as the festival returns to the folk school from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
   Now in its 43rd year straddling the Cherokee and Clay county lines, the event is dedicated to the N.C. Arts Council’s 50th birthday celebration. One special event included in that celebration will be two vibrant exhibitions showcasing the school’s Visual Arts and Quilting & Surface Design Programs.
   Davidson Hall will house works by accomplished painting, drawing and mixed media instructors, according to a release by the folk school. The Pitman Fiber Arts Building will feature a display of more than 30 striking quilts made by the school’s instructors.
   The wide variety of crafts and music on display at the festival represent not only the culture of the mountains, but its evolution over time.
   “Times are changing, but we still have a wide range of crafters, some of whom do heritage crafts, new crafts, hobbies and up to master craftspeople,” Barralon said. “There have been modern advances in how some of these things are done, but we still have some doing things the old way, which is nice to see.”
   Barralon, who has been to almost every Fall Festival since she was only 3, said the event began as a way to kick-start the folk school and its mission.
   “The school has gone through phases over the years.” she said, “and the festival served as a way to revive the energy here and the passion for people to share their knowledge.”
   The musicians playing at the event are all volunteers, again showing a wide range of genres from old-style folk music to newer forms.
   “The musicians are terrific because they are here because they love being here,” Barralon said.
   The festival will offer numerous activities for children, including art projects, mask making and animal attractions, like a petting zoo and pony rides. The free on-campus shuttle bus also will return, traveling between the Craft Shop and Festival Barn gates and parking areas.
   No ATMs are available on campus. While many vendors accept credit/debit cards, festival goers should bring cash for tickets and food. The folk school asks that patrons please leave pets at home.
   Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for ages 12-17 and free for children under 12. The Murphy High School Shooting Team will manage free on-campus parking. Donations are encouraged, with proceeds helping the team to learn shooting sports.