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Pioneer Day


Master bluegrass musician, public radio program host, and Appalachian music professor Wayne Erbsen will headline the entertainment at Mountain Gateway Museum & Heritage Center’s 34th Annual Pioneer Day festival on Saturday, April 28th, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Old Fort. Traditional mountain crafts, live bands, food trucks, vintage farm tools and equipment, antique cars, Civil War re-enactors, special exhibits, storytellers, children’s games, and much more will be part of this family-oriented event. Begun in 1984 to celebrate and help preserve the history, heritage, and traditional lifestyle of people in western North Carolina’s mountains, Pioneer Day will be held on Mountain Gateway Museum’s grounds at the intersection of Catawba Avenue and Water Street, just a quarter-mile off Interstate 40 at Exit 73 in Old Fort. Festival admission is free, and parking will be available in the lot at the end of Water Street. 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 solo CDs, written and published more than 30 instruction and song books, and has taught in Warren Wilson College’s Appalachian Music program since 1982. The Asheville resident also hosts a radio show called “Country Roots” on public radio station WCQS and is the president of Native Ground Books & Music. Erbsen will take the amphitheater stage on Pioneer Day at 1:00 p.m. Two bluegrass-based bands—Possum Creek, which appears regularly at Woody’s Original Mountain Music in Marion on Friday nights, and Carolina Express, which features brothers Jonah and Grayson Riddle—will perform on the stage at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., respectively. And Friendship Dulcimers will play old-time favorites on the museum’s front porch at noon. Traditional craftspeople—some of whom are long-familiar faces at the State Fair in Raleigh and at the Mountain State Fair in Fletcher—will demonstrate their skills throughout the day. Among the crafts to be seen will be blacksmithing, gunsmithing, woodworking, quilting, needlework, pottery, basket making, jewelry-making, broom-making, chair-caning, spinning, weaving, dyeing, gourd art, and corn shuck doll-making. Vendors also will be selling crafts, including English Farmstead Cheese of Marion. In the food court area around the museum’s outdoor fountain and river-rock gazebo, food vendors will offer hamburgers, hotdogs, barbecue, fried-fish sandwiches, gyros and prime rib sandwiches, nachos, shrimp kabobs, pizza, funnel cakes, kettle corn, fresh-squeezed lemonade, Hawaiian shaved ice, coffee, sodas, and bottled water. In addition to music, crafts, and food, various community organizations—including McDowell County Public Library, Keep McDowell Beautiful, McDowell County Historical Society, Old Fort Extension and Community Association, and the North Carolina Home Guard—will have booths set up to showcase their services. A special feature of this year’s Pioneer Day festival will be the exhibition of the blood-stained neckerchief worn by Confederate Brigadier General James Johnston Pettigrew of North Carolina when he was mortally wounded during a Civil War skirmish at Falling Waters, MD, on July 14, 1863. Only days earlier, Pettigrew had led four brigades at the Battle of Gettysburg, participated in the controversial assault known as Pickett’s Charge, had his horse shot from under him, and suffered a wound to his hand. He and his troops were resting at Falling Waters on the morning of July 14, 1863, when a Federal cavalry unit rode into their camp by accident. Pettigrew was shot in the stomach during the ensuing melee and died three days later. Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 379 in Marion raised $1,200 to have Pettigrew’s neckerchief conserved and pressure-mounted. On loan from the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh, the red silk neckerchief will be on exhibit at Mountain Gateway Museum for Pioneer Day weekend, from Friday, April 27, through Sunday, April 29. Members of SCV Camp 379 will be encamped on the museum’s grounds during the festival weekend. For more information about the 2018 Pioneer Day Festival, please contact RoAnn Bishop at Mountain Gateway Museum at 828-668-9259 or # # # Mountain Gateway Museum & Heritage Center is located at 24 Water Street in Old Fort, NC. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m. The museum is part of the Division of State History Museums, Office of Archives and History, N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Susi H. Hamilton, Secretary.