Barry and I started attending the Festival on the Square in 1995 when we first moved to Clay County, NC, the smallest county in the state. Tents are set up all over the courthouse square with as many different kinds of crafts and visual arts as you could imagine. Soon my family members came up on the Festival weekend and we carried folding chairs down to sit in front of the gazebo where local musicians of all ages entertained for two days free to the public.
We fell in love with a family group, the Shook Family. The mother and father sang and played mountain music along with their three boys. Over the decades we watched those boys grow up and eventually the singing family scattered and those boys were raising families of their own. I miss them. Young men singing together brought back memories of my four brothers, The Council Brothers Quartet, a popular group in south Georgia back in the forties and fifties. But that story is for another blog post.
Most of the groups at the festival sold cassette tapes of their music. We always bought them because we wanted to continue to hear those songs, those voices, so we played them in our cars. My brothers carried home many cassettes from these mountains. Barry had fallen in love with good blue grass music and I often came home to find him on the deck with fiddle and banjo music flowing through the open doors.
We also came to love another more eclectic group of musicians and singers, Butternut Creek and Friends, a group from Blairsville, GA. Steve Harvey, English professor at Young Harris College plays guitar, banjo and sometimes, the ukulele. He also lends his soft husky voice to harmonies with Jennifer Cordier who plays autoharp. Her husband plays percussion and flute with the band and when we first met them, a young blond woman was part of the group. She sang the most haunting melodies. We were so disappointed when she left the group, but over the years, Butternut Creek and Friends have evolved and made some changes in personnel but never lost that special sound. You will find samples of their newest albums on their website.
Now my brothers are gone and we don't gather in front of the gazebo anymore to hear the singers. Our Netwest booth was not too far from where we used to sit, but none of my old favorite groups sang this year. Seems there were fewer people sitting in the shade and listening.
But I was happy to see that my favorite blogger, Tipper Pressley was there with her lovely twins, the Pressley Girls who have grown up before my eyes. They took center stage while their mom and uncle played guitar and bass behind them. I was touched when Katie spoke of her musical family and how growing up with all the adults coming over to practice their music together inspired the girls to want to play and sing. The girls say when they were put to bed while the grownups played music downstairs, the two of them would lie down on the floor near the door so they could hear the singing. Tipper often came up to find them sound asleep on the floor.
Katie recognized her granddad who was sitting out front on a bench. Pap has not been well for a good while, but he was present to hear his family singing on stage. In the past he would have been up there lending his tenor voice to his son Paul's for some great country music.
|The Pressley Girls|
The festival holds a good bit of nostalgia for me, so it is best to be working in the writers' booth talking to visitors instead of thinking of what once was.