Macon County took a step back in time last Saturday, with the first annual Blackberry Jam — an event aiming to preserve the history and heritage of the area.
The day-long festival was held at the Macon County Fairgrounds and was a fundraiser for the Historical Society. The Jam featured traditional performances by local musicians, story tellers and dancers. Nearly a dozen vendor tables of arts, crafts and local goods were set up throughout the event, along with demonstrations of traditional Appalachian crafts.
“The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was the song of choice to kick off the event, performed by musical troupe Carolina Brass.
“I think it’s nice for the public to come out and get to see things from our past,” said Randy Stoudemire, team coach of the regional allgirls softball travel team. Stoudemire’s team, with players from Clayton, Franklin and Sylva, were selling hamburgers and hotdogs, with proceeds from food sales funding the team’s travel expenses.
Celebrating the history of Appalachia is important, said locally acclaimed storyteller Gary Carden. “Death is coming for Appalachian history. It will be gone before very long. We’re seeing the last vestiges of it,” he said, remarking that the Jam had a very important role in the community. “It sustains it — it gives it a life that will linger.”
A Civil War reenactment was scheduled for the event, but was cancelled due to a nearby cattle show. According to event organizers, the mock gunfire would have spooked the livestock. “We would have loved to have a reenactment and shoot at some Yankees. Maybe next year,” said Reed Henson, of the 25th North Carolina Infantry Regiment
The Rabun County 4-H County Council Board also demonstrated the more-than-200-year-old craft of making corn shuck dolls. “We really appreciate the opportunity to come to this and show the community something new … well old,” laughed Vanessa Williams, memeber of the group.
All figures are not in, but according to Historical Society director Steve Rice, the fundraiser did see a net profit, with 300 tickets presold for the event. “The weather did have an impact on the turnout,” he said, noting the intermittent showers.
“We are looking to build the Blackberry Jam into a three day festival,” said Rice.