Unique heritage of the community celebrated.
Cowee Jamboree was not just another festival but a commemoration of the life, times, and work of one of the more colorful characters in the Cowee community.
The Cowee Jamboree was a celebration of Tom Rickman's life as much as it was the marking of the unique heritage of the community at large. “The whole event went fantastic,” said Gloria Syring, the main organizer for the Jamboree and a regular volunteer at Rickman’s General Store. “We were battling the football game, which no one anticipated until later, so we had about half the people we were hoping for, but the people that came really enjoyed the event.”
The Jamboree was a benefit to help pay monthly expenses at the General Store. Syring did not want to give out exact figures but estimated that the costs of the Store were covered plus a little bit extra. “It cost a bit more than we were expecting between the directional signs and [the sound setup] and we did not get the turn out that we were hoping for.”
Tom Rickman was born on Sept. 7, 1901, and opened the general store in 1925. He maintained the store through all kinds of circumstances, including the Depression, until 1992. T.H. Rickman died two years later on Nov. 23, 1994.
Rickman was known throughout the community as a great philanthropist. “He was one of the finest gentlemen I have ever known in my life,” says Ed Brogden who recalls helping Rickman burn hundreds of unpaid customer bills over the years.
In giving a brief history of Rickman's General Store, Ben Utley, master of ceremonies for the event, said Tom Rickman “dedicated his life and his service to the community through the store.” Utley explained how the store was used as a polling center during early elections and how the store was a center for people of the community to gather and discuss current events or local concerns. “During the Depression in particular, he [Rickman] gave a tremendous amount of service to our local folks in need and made a big difference in their lives by being able to serve the need and in many cases never required that they return the funds for that,” said Utley. “His imprint is certainly a definite impact as far as what we see in Cowee and it will always be this way.”
Syring noted that T.H. Rickman was a dedicated Christian man that lived out his beliefs to the best of his ability. Rickman had been a member of the Cowee Baptist Church. “I think that is why people still support the store,” Syring said. “Some of the people that were at the event knew Tom Rickman personally and feel a connection to the store.”
Entertainment for the Cowee Jamboree included the Nikwasi Dulcimer Players, Ronnie Evans, Dave and Helen Stewart, the Heartland Band, Arnold Burnett, Chris Bowers and Jenny Chestnut and Richard and Tristan Byrd. The Byrds play at Rickman's General Store every Friday evening. According to Syring, Utley made things go even smoother with his natural wit and humor. Syring also wanted to give a special thanks to Paradise Music for setting up and running the sound system. Syring said that the workers at Paradise Music, “made it easier for the musicians and it sounded excellent.”
After each act, a drawings for raffles were held. Prizes included a $20 Sunset gift certificate, fresh goat cheese donated by Steve and Teresa Tabor, a designer purse donated by Genevieve's Gifts, a vegetable basket donated by J.W. Mitchell Farms, a $50 gift certificate from Cowee Convenience and Deli, and special treatment coupon to Sophisticut Salon.
There were several vendors from the area including Cowee Convenience Store and the 4-H Home Grown Buds. Visitors could purchase ice cream, snow cones, pretzels, popcorn or barbecue sandwich plates. Volunteers from the Cowee Fire Department were also on hand to help with directing traffic and parking.
In 1995, the site of the Store was purchased by Ron and Donna Schrichten who ran it for several years before selling it to Autumn Simon. In August of 2007, the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee (LTLT) purchased the store to help preserve the heritage of Cowee. The Friends of the Rickman Store now open its doors one day a week.
If you would like more information about the store or to volunteer, the store is open every Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located on Cowee Creek Road, seven miles north of Franklin on Highway NC 28, next to the Cowee Elementary School, or call the store at (828)349-7476.