The Living Traditions of the Blue Ridge
I’m writing this, my first blog post for WNC Magazine, from the road on a weekend trip to visit family in Virginia. As I travel from the mountains and through the foothills of Western North Carolina, I am struck by the fact that I live in one of the most beautiful regions of our country, possibly on the planet.
I mean, people pay big bucks to come here. Travel hundreds, even thousands of miles. And I get to live here and work here every day.
Lucky me, and lucky all of us who have this privilege.
I’m also lucky that in my job as the Marketing and Communications Director for the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area (www.blueridgeheritage.com) I am able to work toward the preservation of this region as well as share its wonders with locals and visitors alike.
So what is the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area? you ask. Well, it’s two things. First, it is a geographical area—the 25 westernmost counties in North Carolina and the Qualla Boundary. This region was designated as a National Heritage Area by Congress in 2003 because of its unique natural and cultural assets and their significant contributions to our American heritage. Specifically, those assets include our natural scenic beauty, the crafts and music of these mountains, the Cherokee heritage and our agricultural traditions.
Secondly, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area is a private non-profit organization charged with the preservation, interpretation and development of these five themes. It’s a big proposition—inviting visitors into the area while at the same time preserving all that we treasure in our heritage which is what they come for.
Since I first became involved with the BRNHA in 2004, I have met many wonderful folks who “get it.” They understand that if we don’t work now to preserve this region and its cultural heritage, it could be lost to the growth and development that has eaten away at the traditions of other regions. Some of those who come to mind include Handmade in America, the Appalachian Sustainable Agricultural Project, Blue Ridge Forever and the Junior Appalachian Musicians program in which traditional artists are mentoring young people and passing down our musical traditions.
One of the exciting initiatives we’ve begun this year is a partnership between the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, WNC Magazine, and WNCW public radio called “Living Traditions Moments.” These 2-minute radio vignettes, written by folks from the Heritage Area, are recorded by Eric Seeger, editor-in-chief of WNC Magazine, then produced by WNCW and aired weekly on Friday evenings around 7:58, just after The World Cafe. These vignettes give the listener insight into the heritage themes of the BRNHA and tell the stories of the people who are carrying on the traditions that have made our region so unique.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing some of those “Living Traditions” in this blog, along with news about cultural and heritage happenings throughout the region. Maybe I’ll throw in an itinerary from time to time to whet your appetite for taking a road trip to someplace special in the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area.
In the meantime, I invite you to tune in to WNCW on Friday nights to hear the “Living Traditions Moments.” And check in to this blog for updates on cultural and heritage news and events.