Sixty is the New Fifty, and Other Reflections on Heritage Festival History

Artisan glasswork at Mt. Mitchell Crafts Fair.
  1. If Asheville’s rowdy street fair Bele Chere hadn’t ended in 2013, it would have turned 40 this year. Bele Chere showcased dozens of Asheville-area artisans and bands, but when out-of-towners became favored in both fields, locals got miffed. 
  2. The upscale Village Art & Craft Fair was always staged the weekend after Bele Chere, as though to highlight its comparative cultural nuance. Held this year on Aug. 3 and 4, the event is turning 47. At press time, entrepreneur/influencers Elon Musk and Snoop Dogg were also 47. 
  3. The late entrepreneur/influencer Bob Moog, pioneer of electronic music, lived for decades in the Leicester community. Today’s Come to Leicester Studio Tour (Aug. 17 and 18) is one of many smaller, neighborhood-centric arts festivals.
  4. Come to Leicester exhibitor Valerie Berlage knows all about heritage making. The woodworker named her business, Lauraine Lillie Studios, after her two grandmothers.
  5. Like Come to Leicester, many mountain arts festivals require driving. If you really feel up for some twisty roads, consider the Mt. Mitchell Crafts Fair, held Aug. 2 and 3 in Burnsville. At 63 (started in 1956), it bills itself as the “oldest and largest crafts fair in the Blue Ridge Mountains.”
  6. Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands, begun in 1947, celebrated 72 last month, presenting a challenge to the “oldest” crafts-fair designation claimed in item 5. Please contact Asheville Made if you have any information about this suspected rivalry.
  7. The North Carolina Apple Festival celebrates Henderson County’s cash crop and includes a street fair with local handcrafts and music. For the purposes of this made-up contest, it wins the oldest-festival honors for the summer, turning 73 over Labor Day Weekend (Aug. 30-Sept. 2).
  8. The LEAF Downtown Rise Up! Festival (Aug. 2 and 3 in Asheville), still a newbie at five years old, is an urban offshoot of heritage event Lake Eden Arts Festival. LEAF Downtown emphasizes local food, local makers, and local musicians. But its main draw is usually a headlining world-music star. This year’s heavy hitter: reggae scion Stephen Marley, one of Bob Marley’s 12 children.
  9. Western North Carolina’s artisanal answer to father-son legacies is Mud Dabbers Pottery, now entering its third generation with locations in Brevard and Waynesville.
  10. The name “Mud Dabber” is perilously close to Mud Dauber, a wasp that builds artistic nests but is, ironically, a solitary creature. 


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