For 2011, youth who enter any of the “Heritage Alive Mountain Youth Talent Contests” in Jackson, Swain, and Macon counties will now be eligible to go even further. Jackson County 4-H Youth Development will be assuming the production of all three contests, thereby giving the youth the opportunity to participate in “4-H Entertains” at the district level and state level in Raleigh.
Youth talent contest beginnings
Since 1997, beginning with the first “Greening Up the Mountains” spring festival in downtown Sylva, Catch the Spirit of Appalachia (CSA) has produced a talent show for children called “Heritage Alive Mountain Youth Talent Contest.” Funded by local businesses, individuals, county agencies, CSA board members, and others, every child who ever entered the contests has walked away with a monetary prize or trophy, amid many accolades and loud applause.
During these 13 years, youth from the age of 5 to 18, have had the opportunity to showcase their talent before large audiences in vocal, dance, instrument — including banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, keyboard, flute — and poetry/prose/storytelling. “Best of Show” winners have been chosen from all the participants of the contest, receiving additional prizes. Each year these contestants have had the opportunity to grow, not only in talent but in the experience of performing before the public. The talent shows during the festivals have also provided excellent heartfelt entertainment for the festival goers.
In the beginning, CSA only produced one talent show a year at the Greening Up the Mountains festival each April in Jackson County. In 2002, the second talent show was added to the Mountain Craft Fair section of September’s Great Smoky Mountain Railroad Railfest in Bryson City—Swain County. In 2006, Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Day chose to honor the “Best of Show” winners (one from each contest) with a dedicated spot on their Heritage Stage. Two years ago, in July 2009, CSA was asked to bring the talent contest to the Franklin Folk Festival in Macon County, giving all our local youth the opportunity to enter one or all three contests each year.
In the production of these talent contests, it has been the mission of Catch the Spirit of Appalachia to honor local musical heritage and encourage its continuance through the youth of our communities.
Under new management
“4-H Entertains” is not your typical competition activity. At District and State, awards are given for participation, not placement as in first, second, third. At District, acts will be video taped and a State committee will select one act per district for State 4- H Congress. The acts are selected for skill, content, entertainment value and to create a well rounded show. County 4-H District Activity Days and State 4-H Entertains is presented during State 4-H Congress.
Amy Ammons Garza, co-founder of Catch the Spirit of Appalachia, will be assisting Heather Gordon, Extension Agent-4-H Youth Development, N.C. Cooperative Extension, to facilitate a smooth “passing of the gavel.” The CSA Board of Directors will also assist in fundraising to help fund the prizes for the talent contests.
To enter the 2011 Heritage Alive Mountain Youth Talent Contest slated for the Greening Up the Mountains in downtown Sylva on Saturday, April 23, go to http://jackson.ces.ncsu.edu/ or www.spiritof appalachia.org to download an application. Applications are also available at the NC Cooperative Extension office, and the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.
For more information, call (828)586-4009.