The Cole Mountain Cloggers perform at a recent Mountain Heritage Day. Clogging performances are always a crowd favorite at each edition of the festival.


 t’s gratifying, although rather rare given the circumstances, to see old friends as COVID ebbs and flows and just drags on.

A special old friend returns Saturday with the 47th annual Mountain Heritage Day, a free, outdoor event whose organizers have worked diligently to create a safe environment. It will run in Cullowhee on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., a daylong celebration of something very much worth celebrating: Our mountain culture.

Crafts, demonstrations, music and stories, all unique to this region, will be on display.

If nothing else, it may give attendees a brief respite, an escape, from these hard times. That’s somewhat ironic, because in a very real sense MHD recalls a people who could not escape from hard times.

Transportation was a challenge, not a luxury, for those living in these hills years back. Commercial goods were hard to come by. As a result, a culture was crafted by necessity that would take from Scots-Irish tradition, Cherokee culture and more to cobble together lives that could withstand the hardscrabble conditions offered by civilization and by the land itself. It was a culture that learned to make do with whatever was available, and a lot of times that wasn’t much.

It made for hard, self-reliant people. But the hardness required to make it day-to-day masked a joyousness reflected in music, song and folk tales, beauty in craft and high epicurean experiences at the table crafted from the labors of the field and the hunt.

The event celebrates a region with an often gruff exterior that masks a generous and giving heart.

That will also be reflected this year, as collection boxes on the ground that normally go for donations to support the ongoing mission of MHD will instead be used for a WCU Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning initiative to sponsor a house renovation for one of more than 100 families that suffered damage during the recent flooding in Haywood County. It’s hoped enough money, an estimated $17,500, can be collected to support at least one rebuild.

That reflects fine community traditions that have long roots here, folks helping out one another when the going is tough.

So, Saturday, get outside and take in the sights and sounds of where we come from.

It will be a respite.

But we might all learn something.

Indeed, here in these hard times, it might help show us the path ahead.