The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival:
“Since 1928, mountain fiddlers, banjo pickers, dulcimer sweepers, dancers, balladeers and others have come to enjoy themselves “along about sundown” the first weekend in August at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. This year marked the 87th festival.
1928: Asheville, North Carolina. Well-known musician and folk historian Bascom Lamar Lunsford organizes performers to present traditional mountain music and dance to the public in this first iteration of what will become the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. This first festival was held at Pack Square as part of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce’s Rhododendron Festival. Prize money was offered for the best dance group and the best band and the great tradition of the festival was born. Cecil Pless and Sam Love Queen organized the dancers for Lunsford.”
Some of the more well-known performers included people like buck dancer Bill McElreath (1904-1974), who is accompanied here by fiddler J. Laurel Johnson.
And ballad singer Rilla Ray made a special contribution to the festival.“Old-timers like Rilla Ray (1886-1978) of Madison County made a special contribution to the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. Mrs. Ray picked the five string ‘banjar’ and sang ballads at the festival until after she was ninety. Her son, Byard Ray, is known in the area as King of the Old-Time Fiddle for the devotion he has given to the preservation of old-time music. Photograph courtesy of Daniels Publications.” Photographer Robert H. Lindsey
We recently received this post card donated by Friends of the North Carolina Room Board Member, Michael Reid.
Coverage from the Asheville Citizen of August 9, 1942 explains the “world’s champion” designation: “The Plantation Dance team, winning over all competition for the third consecutive night, was declared ‘champions of the world in square dancing’ as the climax of the annual Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, at McCormick Field last night. This team is directed by Bill Green and dances to the music of Grover Stewart and his Sunset Ramblers.” Over the “Place Stamp Here” spot someone has written the date 9/07/1943 and the name Schwartz. The Plantation dance hall is first listed in the 1943 Asheville City Directory. Managed by George M. White, the dance hall appears to be located in the warehouse of The Frank Silverman Salvage Company.
Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian