It all comes together once a year, both the past and the present at the Annual Fall Festival. Art imitates life here in Rabun County, Georgia, the art of mountain living. Songs and the spirits from the past merge here under the open sky with fields running across the spacious valley floor where hills rise like green waves against towering mountains slopes. A landscape forming a mighty cauldron, culminating the lives and tales, customs and traditions, crafts and tools, creating a festive atmosphere of fun and revelation.
Each fall, Foxfire celebrates the heritage of Southern Appalachia with the Foxfire Mountaineer Festival, which has moved from the site in Dillard, Georgia, to the Rabun County Civic Center in downtown Clayton, Georgia, for this year's event. Down home Blue Grass music will fill the air throughout the day laced with “good ole’ Gospel Music,” taking you back to simpler days when joy felt natural. The festival is a celebration of Southern Appalachian Heritage, reliving the good days, hard times and faith filled memories.
Appalachian artists, their works and their crafts will be on display, revealing the secrets of the past as these mountaineers demonstrate their skills and answer questions from Festival visitors. Staked out in one corner you’ll find the village smithy heating his iron and shaping his wares over his immortal anvil. A weaver sets spinning a mountain of wool while a weaver keeps rhythm playing her loom like an instrument. A broom maker shapes and binds the household tools as a toy maker whittles shapes from raw wood, often inventing contraptions to entertain innocent young minds.
Literary artists as well as hand crafters tell tales of mountain ways and mountain lives; an acclaimed engineer sets aside life in the outer world to pursue a passion for beautifully hand crafted buckets.
They say it takes a village to raise a child yet here at Foxfire it took a nation to make a quilt. For the 40th Anniversary of Foxfire, Foxfire received by request fabric squares from Foxfire devotees across the nation to create the Foxfire’s 40th Anniversary Quilt. The fabled quilt will once again be on display at the Foxfire Mountaineer Festival, for all those that admire this truly beautiful American art form. It has been a tradition at Foxfire since 1986 that an anniversary quilt made is made each five years; the previous quilts are likely on display at the Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center.
A QUILT IS SOMETHING HUMAN…”It helps bring people together where they’d have quiltin’. It just seems like lot’a pleasure. You’re quiltin’, you don’t know your quiltin’- a’talkin’ and a quiltin’ too. And y’have lunch. I used t’enjoy goin’ t’th’ quiltin’s.
Edith Darnell, FOXFIRE BOOK #1
History stands on two legs here at the Foxfire Mountaineer Festival as the elders of the mountains join the event, sharing their life stories, tales of the times, custom and traditions. These elder folks reveal in their faces a life where; Faith was enduring, Family meant loyalty and the Land was to be revered. Their lives and the lives of their long departed family members, gathered and recorded by Foxfire students make these “elders of the mountains,” the stars of this event.
FAMILY…”Poppy had a awful hard time, an’ his daddy died a way ‘fore he was born so he had a hard time t’begin with. Well, Atter he’s married he had a worse time I’ll say, with all ‘at sickness’n’ever’thing on ‘um. Mommy did love wheat bread, an’ he worked for a peck a’corn a day so he could get Mommy bread t’eat. Why, he’uz as good t’Mommy as a baby.”
Aunt Arie, FOXFIRE BOOK #1
LAND…”Somebody comes nearly everyday to buy land. But we got four children and seven grandchildren. They all got to have a place to live. Richard won’t sell an acre of land…The money would soon be gone, and you wouldn’t have nothing’.”
Margaret Norton, FOXFIRE 40TH ANNIVERSARY BOOK
The smell of good outdoor cookin’ fills the air while music sets the tone of the day, raffle tickets sell like hot cakes for the many prizes that await your chance, visitors mingle with mountain folk, and southern hospitality seems contagious here at the festival.
The Mountaineer Festival is produced by the Foxfire Community Board and funded in part by donations from local businesses, with raffle prizes provided by dozens of local and regional businesses. All proceeds from the event are used to fund Foxfire's student programs in Rabun County.
The Festival runs from 10am to 5pm. Check the Blue Ridge Highlander Event Calendar for exact date.
Like most young people, the Foxfire students always have something going on. Gathering information, interviews and artifacts for the bi-yearly magazine, archiving material for future Foxfire Books, publishing the Foxfire News, working at the museum heritage center, helping out in the community and fund raising puts a lot on these young folks' plates. They set a great example for any community in how they take pride in family, friends, neighbors and their own personal roots.
Grants, donations, fund-raisers, book and magazine sales along with determination and dedication have kept the Foxfire program both fresh and alive. Their teaching program proved that success comes thru “hands on production” and students making their own decisions and choices with proper guidance.
The influence Foxfire has had on these students and the community has become contagious when young individuals personally seek to spearhead events helpful for those in the community.
During an interview in December of 2006, Casi Best, a 16-year-old Foxfire student, encountered an unusual need of her interview subject. Casi felt compelled to fulfill this self-chosen mission and needed the help from a few friends and the community.
Mrs. Highlander and I arrived at the event that Sunday afternoon. A larger than expected crowd gathered to the toe tapping sounds of Blue Grass and the heart felt voices of Mountain Gospel Singing.
It was almost surreal, here were these people, friends and strangers alike celebrating the life and departure of a dear ole’ mountain friend, the strange thing was that the departed hadn’t departed yet. On hand was Sammy Green the guest of honor, along with the handcrafted woodwork made by several local Rabun County high school students.
It seems Sammy, was ready to go home to the Lord yet had no financial means of getting there. Knowing that his time was nearing and not wanting to be a financial burden to Sherri Gragg, the wonderful lady who offered true hospitality by sharing her home with Sammy. Sherri had no financial resources to help Sammy beyond food and board during his twilight light years.
Sammy was grieved over this matter as he shared his thoughts with Casi after the interview, and how he didn’t feel comfortable knowing his host felt helpless in the matter. Sometimes you just need to share your concerns with others. Moved by Sammy’s grief Casi decided to she might be able to solve the problem and set Sammy’s mind at peace...Casi chose to help raise the funds and create an event.
The upcoming event was so humanitarian in nature that the Atlanta Constitution placed an article for the event on their front-page cover.
Everyone at the event was smiling, enjoying the music and the BBQ, yet no one was smiling bigger than Sammy. I’ve been to pre-wedding rehearsal celebrations, but this was my first pre-funeral event. What a nice novel idea, being there in the flesh as opposed to there in spirit, shaking hands and singing along.
Folks bought BBQ, raffle tickets for a handmade quilt and kindly dropped donation into the finely made pine-box coffin, some local folks as well as visiting tourists and part-time residents joined in. Students at the Rabun County High School’s wood shop constructed the handmade departure vehicle. The builders have personally committed themselves to being the ones that will carry Sammy to his final resting place.
I tried to see it through Sammy’s eyes, the man couldn’t have looked happier. Sitting there at the pre-funeral event, I couldn’t help wondering what I was actually witnessing or possibly missing, if this was like a wedding rehearsal…then I suddenly saw it as Biblical scripture; happy bride awaits the arrival of the groom, the bride being Sammy is to be whist away by the groom Jesus Christ, taken through the “Pearly Gates,” to live through eternity in peace and love. It was a first class ticket to paradise.
Sammy had a lot to be happy about and so did Casi. More money was raised then expected, those funds will be useful in the community.
All this done as a individual act by present and past students and their leaders, individual members getting together in the spirit of Foxfire and doing something good for their home community, an act guided by love and respect of their elders. Again proving given the right guidance and motivation young people will make good productive decisions to benefit others around them.
The title of the Foxfire 40th Anniversary Book says it all about these hearty mountain people; Faith, Family and the Land. They paved the way for their descendants, the only thing missing is their dear old faces, yet they live on in the hearts and due respect of their children and their children’s children. Preserving their memories is all these hearty mountain folk ever expected.
Knowing the stubborn dedication these mountain folks had for their faith, knowing at times it was all they had to cling too, I searched scripture to find something suitable and enduring to open this featured Highlander story, I found this scripture. .
For Ye Shall Go Out with Joy, and Be Led Forth with Peace: The Mountains and the Hills Shall Break Forth Before You Into Singing, and All the Trees of the Field Shall Clap Their Hands…Isaiah 55:12…KJV
When I started the article I turned to the verse and copied it, curiously I thought I should check out the above scripture to see what led to this beautiful verse and I found it to be most fitting to all the hard work, dedication and success created by Foxfire. I found it to be quite a fulfilling ending to this special Highlander story.
So shall my word goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it...Isaiah 55:11……KJV