HAYESVILLE – Clay County Communities Revitalizations Association’s (CCCRA) second annual Cherokee Heritage Festival was enjoyed by approximately 450 visitors on Saturday, October 20. The Cherokee Homestead Exhibit was alive with Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian (EBCI) demonstrations of Cherokee crafts, dancing, and stickball.
Smoke from a small fire filled the air as Joel Queen fired recently built pots. The aroma of Cherokee frybread tempted the appetites of many attending the festival.
EBCI artisans Ramona Lossie and Emma Garrett wove rivercane baskets, Karen George and Lori Reed demonstrated fingerweaving, Joel Queen displayed flint knapping, Jack Wachacha brought handmade blowguns, James Wolf displayed his recently made stone carvings, and Kevin George demonstrated flint knapping when he wasn’t singing for the dancers.
Presenters included T.J. Holland who spoke about Hiwassee Valley River town settlements. Lamar Marshall answered questions about Cherokee trading trails and Don Wells talked about trail trees, described in his recently published book, Mystery of the Trees. Clay County resident Darry Wood captivated visitors with demonstrations of flint knapping, fire building, dart making and blow gun.
Funding for the festival was provided by the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area (BRNHA) and the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation. The Junaluska Museum and the Little Tennessee Land Trust (LTLT) sponsored T.J. Holland and Lamar Marshall is associated with Wild South. Clay County Historical & Arts Council’s volunteers were on hand to welcome the numerous visitors to the museum, many for the first time. Don Wells donated a percentage of his book sales to CCCRA. Blankenship Seed Company provided hay bales and C&H Services provided port-o-lets for the event.
The recently completed multi-use summer structure, funded by the Creating New Economies Fund (CNEF), and landscaping at the Cherokee Homestead Exhibit made it the ideal site for an event which celebrated the heritage of the Cherokee.
Angie Chandler, of the BRNHA, attended the festival and expressed delight in the success of the event and the appearance of the Cherokee Homestead Exhibit. She commented on the likelihood of the exhibit becoming an attractor for visitors to our area, particularly those interested in history and the Cherokee culture.
The Cherokee Homestead Exhibit is a reconstructed 17th – 18th century homestead featuring a winter house, summer house, food storage crib, multi-use structure, Cherokee garden, and information kiosks. Public art includes hand-forged steel representations of Cherokee clan masks and iconic symbols of Cherokee culture and mythology, and wall-mounted panels depicting Cherokee artifacts, art and symbols. This free self-guided exhibit is open year-round. Additional information may be obtained by calling (828) 389-3045 or by visiting www.cccra.net.