Best of the Festivals - ARTS & CRAFTS

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Catawba Valley Pottery and Antiques Festival
March 27 & 28 ›› Hickory

Catawba Valley Pottery signals more than just an origin; it also refers to the distinct alkaline-glazed stoneware tradition that began in the namesake river valley some 150 years ago. Today, it remains highly collectable. Antique and contemporary fanciful face jugs and other pieces made in this tradition can be found at this annual festival, along with antique furniture, textiles, and folk art. The main event on Saturday includes demos and a special guest lecture.

Rissi Palmer at 2019's Connect Beyond Festival

Connect Beyond Festival
April 3-5 ›› Asheville

“Connect Beyond is sort of like a Ted Talk meets This American Life meets MTV Unplugged.” That’s how founder and event organizer Jessica Tomasin likes to quickly explain this multifaceted event. But a deeper dive would describe how this new festival (only in its second year after being well-received in 2019) is more of a movement that explores the power of words through storytelling (incorporated through music, film, and literature) to create social impact. Readings, panel discussions, screenings, performances, and a mix of filmmakers, musicians, journalists, activists, and academics come together to present an innovative, thought-provoking, and entertaining experience. Last year’s roster of some 70 presenters and entertainers included NPR’s Bob Boilen, singer-songwriter Fantastic Negrito, and multi-instrumentalist Kishi Bashi, among many other pioneers in their fields. This year brings noted personalities including New York Times journalist Megan Twohey, who with coauthor Jodi Kantor won the Pulitzer Prize for their book on breaking the Harvey Weinstein story.

Fire on the Mountain Blacksmithing Festival
April 25 ›› Spruce Pine

Presented in partnership with Downtown Spruce Pine, Penland School of Crafts, and the Toe River Arts Council, and always held the last Saturday in April, this annual craft showcase brings together nationally renowned blacksmiths for exhibits and demonstrations as well as tool vendors. A hands-on tent lets attendees in on the action. This year’s featured Master Blacksmith is noted iron maiden and Penland instructor Elizabeth Brim. Facebook: Fire on the Mountain Festival

Blue Ridge Fiber Fest
June 5 & 6 ›› Sparta

Textiles have long been part of life’s fabric in Southern Appalachia, and this annual event serves to help preserve that history, from farm to garment, through education and networking. Attendees can meet the animals and artisans, choose from more than 40 classes throughout the weekend, and shop for fleece and fiber equipment from more than 50 vendors.

Carlson Tuttle

Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands
July 16-19 & October 15-18 ›› Asheville

Marking its 90th year, the Southern Highland Craft Guild is the nation’s second oldest craft organization, representing over 800 juried members across nine Southeastern states. And this biannual craft fair is an opportunity to find nearly 200 of the esteemed members in one place. Artisans working in clay, wood, metal, glass, fiber, jewelry, and more fill two floors of the Harrah’s Cherokee Center Asheville. Live demos and music add to the shopping experience.

Patti LaBelle at 2019's Appalachian Summer Festival

An Appalachian Summer Festival
June 28-August 1 ›› Boone

When Appalachian State University’s campus slows for summer break, the arts take center stage. Each year between late June and early August, some 37,000 attendees turn out to catch one of the 40 or so music, dance, theater, visual arts, and film events that take place daily at venues across town. Past highlights have included pianist and singer-songwriter Ben Folds performing with the Winston-Salem Symphony, Grammy-winning singer and actress Patti LaBelle, and an evening of laughter with actress Lily Tomlin.

Mount Mitchell Crafts Fair
August 7 & 8 ›› Burnsville

Named for the East’s loftiest peak that looms just to the south, this craft fair (now in its 64th year) draws around 200 juried crafters and over 20,000 people to Burnsville’s adorable, old-timey town square. Attendees can shop for everything from handmade quilts to traditional mountain instruments to artwork of all mediums. Barbecue and sweet tea served up with live mountain music and dance make this craft fair all the more culturally enriching.

Sculpture by David Shelton

Sculpture Celebration
September 12 ›› Lenoir

The Caldwell Arts Council’s collection of over 80 public sculptures warrants a visit any time of year, but the annual Sculpture Celebration more than doubles the fun. It’s the longest running sculpture competition in the Southeast and attracts artists from multiple states. Works range from small cast pieces to massive artworks in metal, clay, glass, or recycled materials. An opportunity to meet the artists and enjoy live music, food trucks, and sculptures surrounding the lovely lakeside Broyhill Walking Park makes this a fine cultural affair.

Mountain Glory Festival 
October 10 ›› Marion

The second Saturday each October, three blocks of Marion’s quaint downtown brim with arts and crafts vendors, food, and live old-time mountain music. Kids activities, 5K and 10K races, and a best-dressed pet contest round out this small-town celebration.

Pottery by Jill Tortorella

WNC Pottery Festival
November 7 ›› Sylva

Mix, mingle, and browse functional and sculptural wares from more than 40 master potters hailing from these mountains and across the country. The Clay Olympics take place the day before, when potters put their skills to the test in four competitions: building the tallest cylinder, widest bowl, blindfolded throwing, and a mystery event. Considering that most potters work privately, bringing cheering spectators into the fold really stirs the pot (so to speak), making this a fun and unique competition.

Photographs (blacksmith) by Wunderfy; (Labelle) by Chase Reynolds; (pottery) by Chad Alley; (Marion) courtesy of Mountain Glory Festival; Palmer by Tom Farr, pottery courtesy of WNC Pottery Festival); Sculptures by Bethany Baumgardner-Kirby; Tuttle courtesy of Southern Highland Craft Guild