Soon it will be time for the John C. Campbell Fall Festival in Brasstown, NC about a twenty-minute drive from my house.
Even before Barry and I moved to the southern Appalachians, we attended many festivals each fall. My favorite was the Fall Festival at the Folk School.
My brothers, my sister, Gay, and their spouses came each year from Atlanta and south Georgia. Ray and Gail, Max and Salita, Rex and Nancy drove up from Albany, GA and Gay and Stu came from the Atlanta area. What glorious times we had together. We sat on my deck which is in the tree tops and enjoyed the view of Brasstown Bald across Lake Chatuge in Georgia. But on Saturday we drove to the folk school for the festival.
Two stages were set up on the campus and music was played all day Saturday and Sunday. We all loved music, especially old country songs, folk songs and familiar gospel music we heard growing up in small country churches in rural southwest Georgia. My brothers had the best time listening to entertainers. We heard family bands with young kids playing banjoes and guitars. We heard husband and wife duos with harmony so sweet you didn't want them to stop singing.
One of our favorite groups Butternut Creek and Friends was composed of an English professor and writer, Steven Harvey, along with three other singers. We loved their music and bought all their CDs which my family played all the way back to Georgia.
The festival offered food and still does, such as barbeque and iced tea, funnel cakes along with hot dogs and burgers. Food tents for snacks and various kinds of treats are always popular. But my folks attended the festival for the music.
Since folk dancing is a big part of the curriculum at the folk school, the large stage at the Festival Barn was the perfect place to watch the dancers in costumes perform as well as catch the clogging by several local teams of dancers. Bluegrass music is preferred for clogging.
At the end of the day on Saturday, my family group headed to a restaurant in Hiawassee, GA just across the state line and on the south end of Lake Chatuge. We required a long table where we could discuss the groups we had heard that day and listen to my brother tell some of his tales that always made us laugh out loud. My heart swelled with love for my family and I was extremely happy that they had come to visit me in my new home in the mountains. These visits continued for several years until Ray was diagnosed with cancer.
He only made one more trip with the family. He seemed to really enjoy it, but he was weak and making a large effort to hang in there. A sadness hung over us like a heavy rain cloud. He lived three years after his diagnosis and came to see me alone twice during that time.
In following years, we still gathered once a year at my house, usually for the Festival on the Square in Hayesville but we all missed Ray.
Tonight I clicked on the website for the folk school and saw the article about this year's Fall Festival. It will be a celebration of the ending of the pandemic shadow that fell over everything for the past two years. While COVID is still with us, people will feel safer going to the festival now.
If I could go back in time, I would dearly love to attend the festival again with my brothers. But they are all gone now. I will just go back in my memories.