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Shindig on the Green® Returns to Pack Square

Dancers from the Bannerman Family and Friends group on stage at the 88th annual Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville, North Carolina.

Asheville – Let the good times roll in downtown Asheville. The Shindig on the Green® is having its 55th season of the colorful mountain heritage event on Saturday nights throughout July, as well as August 14 and 21.  Once again, the free outdoor concerts will bring lively fiddlers, bluegrass bands, clog dancers, ballad singers and storytellers to the Roger McGuire Green in downtown Asheville. Bring your own blanket or chairs to make yourself comfortable and concession stands are available.  Maybe you will want to cool down a bit with delicious chocolate or salted caramel ice cream from the Hop Ice Cream? Sadly last Saturday’s event was canceled because of the downpour, but Shindig is scheduled for next Saturday evening.

Long-standing Appalachian Tradition

You can jam under the trees and see colorful mountain dancers on stage as you sit in your chair near family and friends. The children will have their clogging shoes on too, tapping rhythmically to the music and twirling each other on stage in matching costumes.  Shindig on the Green is a long-standing Appalachian tradition. Talented regional musicians and dancers come to enjoy themselves on a summer evening in the mountains. There will be bluegrass and old-time string bands, ballad singers, big circle mountain dancers, clog dancers, smooth dancers, ballad singers and storytellers of all ages. Last year, it was sorely missed due to the pandemic. Creatively, however, the Folk Heritage Committee virtually broadcast past performances.  

This year in person are The Stoney Creek Boys, along with John Roten of WWNC and other well-known emcees. Notable songwriter and bluegrass singer Jim Lauderdale plans to be there, along with guitarist David Holt and singer-dancer Carol Rifkin.  This mountain music tradition started way back in 1928 by well-known folklorist Bascom Lamar Lunsford and brings between 3,000 to 5,000 people to the Park. To end the evening near 10:00 pm, a waltz is always played.

Mountain Dance and Folk Festival®

Shindig on the Green® is followed by an indoor concert the first weekend in August— a sister concert series on August 5, 6 and 7, starting at 6:30 PM.  This ticketed event is held at the Lipinsky Auditorium on the UNCA  campus. The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival® were founded in 1928 as part of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce’s Rhododendron Festival by Bascom Lamar Lunsford. Cecil Pless and Sam Love Queen organized the dancers for Lunsford. The festival has moved to various locations over the years— Asheville Civic Center, Diana Wortham Theatre, and in 2019 to its current location. 

There will be a wide array of performers-local, regional and nationally recognized. A tentative evening line-up is currently available online.  Prices range from $5.00 to $20.00. As quoted from the Folk Heritage.org website:

 “The songs and dances shared at this event echo centuries of Scottish, English, Irish, Cherokee and African heritage found in the valleys and coves between the Great Smokies and the Blue Ridge Mountains.” Lunsford’s was the first to be considered a folk festival.

A long tradition of mountain music–fiddle, guitar, bass,– will get you taping your toes this Saturday night in downtown Asheville. Photo submitted.

Bascom Lamar Lunsford, Minstrel of the Appalachians

Bascom Lamar Lunsford was a visionary born at Mars Hill, North Carolina, in 1882—at a time when there were no telephones, no electricity.  He grew up in a musical family,  playing the fiddle, picking the banjo, later the mandolin, then he began writing songs and making music. Most Southerners recognize and love to sing his song, “Mountain Dew,” as well as many others. He made a career of collecting songs written by others as well, often driving far and wide to gather them, doing so well into his 80’s. His incredible memory allowed him to remember the tunes and poetical words. He recognized the incredible talent of the musicians in the mountains and wanted this culture to be known and remembered for its beauty by other Americans.  He wanted others to experience and appreciate the beauty of the music and dance that grew out of Southern Appalachia.

Bascom was a great leader of the Folk Culture of the Mountains, who hated the prejudice and slander against his people, the hillbillies. To this end, he gave lectures and performances dressed in a starched white shirt and black bow tie. He was fiercely defensive of this derogatory stereotype and wanted to show the value and culture of the Southern Mountain people he loved. He performed extensively as well, playing for the Roosevelts and the King and Queen of England at the White House in 1939.

Bascom founded Shindig on the Green and the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville. At Pack Square Park, The stage on the Roger McGuire Green is named in his honor. That is where the dancing is on Saturday, the 17.  In addition, he co-founded the Bascom Lamar Lunsford “Minstrel of Appalachia” Festival which will take place in October for its 47th year, at Mars Hill University. This incredible musician and folklorist continues to be remembered and honored. He died in 1973 at the age of 91.

The non-profit all-volunteer Folk Heritage Committee produces Shindig on the Green® and its sister event, the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival®, to support the preservation and continuation of the traditional music, dance and storytelling heritage of the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

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