Wayne Erbsen Headlines Pioneer Day Festival at Mountain Gateway Museum

Old Fort

Master bluegrass musician, public radio program host and Appalachian music professor Wayne Erbsen will headline entertainment at Mountain Gateway Museum & Heritage Center’s 34th Annual Pioneer Day Festival Saturday, April 28, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., in Old Fort.

The free event will be alive with food trucks, bands, traditional mountain crafts, vintage farm equipment, antique cars, Civil War reenactors, storytellers, children’s games and much more.

The family oriented event started in 1984 to help preserve the history, heritage and traditional lifestyles of the people of the western North Carolina mountains. 

Erbsen has won numerous prizes at fiddler’s conventions in North Carolina and Virginia, but also plays the banjo, mandolin and guitar. He has recorded 18 CDs, written and published instruction and song books and has taught at Warren Wilson College since 1982. The Asheville resident is host of “Country Roots” on WCQS public radio station, and is president of Native Ground Books & Music.

Erbsen will take the amphitheater stage at 1 p.m. Bluegrass-based bands Possum Creek, which performs Friday nights at Woody’s Original Mountain Music in Marion, and Carolina Express, featuring brothers Jonah and Grayson Riddle, will perform at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., respectively.

Traditional craftspeople, some regulars at the North Carolina State Fair or Mountain State Fair, will demonstrate their skills throughout the day. Crafts include blacksmithing, gunsmithing, quilting, needlework, pottery, jewelry making, chair caning, gourd art and more. Vendors will sell goods, including English Farmstead Cheese of Marion.

In the food court, near the fountain and gazebo, hamburgers, hot dogs, barbecue, fish sandwiches, gyros, shrimp kabobs, pizza, funnel cakes, fresh squeezed lemonade and Hawaiian shaved ice will be among the many options for sale.

A special feature of the festival will be the exhibit of the blood-stained neckerchief worn by North Carolina’s Confederate Brigadier General James Johnston Pettigrew when he was mortally wounded at Falling Waters, Md., July 14, 1863.

Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 379 in Marion raised funds to have Pettigrew’s neckerchief conserved and pressure mounted. The red silk neckerchief is on loan from the N.C. Museum of History and will be displayed at Mountain Gateway April 27-29. Members of SCV Camp 379 will be encamped on museum grounds during festival weekend.

Several community organizations will have informational booths showcasing their services. McDowell County Public Library, Keep McDowell Beautiful, McDowell County Historical Society, Old Fort Extension and Community Association and the North Carolina Home Guard will participate.

Mountain Gateway is located at 24 Water St., Old Fort. The festival will be on the grounds at the intersection of Catawba and Water Streets, just a quarter mile off Interstate 40. Parking will be in the lot at the end of Water Street.

For more information about the 2018 Pioneer Day Festival, please contact RoAnn Bishop at Mountain Gateway Museum, (828) 668-9259 or roann.bishop@ncdcr.gov. Mountain Gateway Museum is part of the Division of State History Museums of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. 

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