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Arts & Entertainment Blackberry Jam: a new festival celebrating the old ways

Warren Stiles checks in with his superior officer with the 25th Regiment NC Reenactors, both clad in Civil War period attire, at Saturday’s first annual Blackberry Jam Festival held at the Macon County Fairgrounds on 441 South. The festival was sponsored by the Macon County Historical Society and focused on celebrating “Macon County’s role in the Civil War,” preserving the best facets of the culture of past generations. The festival featured mountain music, pony rides, Civil War reenactors, historical exhibits, crafts and even old-timey corn shuck dolls. Photo by Henry FichnerMacon 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.”

Commemorative t-shirt of the Jam.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.

Barbara Duncan performs music played in the fields of battle and cotton in the mid-1800’s.Civil War reenactor Reed Henson shows off the accessories and weapons of soldiers in the Civil War.Jasper Chase Phillips and his grandmother Sheila Daniels get their portrait taken in Civil War attire.Ice cream was available along with hamburgers, hotdogs and other treats during the event.Carolina Brass performed at the beginning of the Blackberry Jam.Rabun County 4-H students give demonstrations on how to make corn shuck dolls.Face painting was a popular attraction at the Blackberry Jam, as the expressions of these girls indicates.Another fun attraction was making corn shuck dolls from the waste from shucking corn.Photos by Henry Fichner


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