John C. Campbell Folk School

Fall Festival Memories

John C. Campbell Folk School Pin I sing Behind the Plow

John C. Campbell Folk School hosts many events throughout the year, but their annual Fall Festival is by far the most popular. Well over 10,000 people invade Brasstown for the two day event. It’s a great festival with over 200 craft vendors, numerous craft demonstrations, a children’s area with pony rides and crafts, live music and dance on two stages, and lots of good food.

It’s hard for me to remember the first John C. Campbell Folk School Fall Festival I ever went to. Pap and Ray played at the festival for years.

I’d tag along with them and walk around looking at all the crafts. I remember one year someone gifted them each with a small piece of pottery, a little purple vase. As soon as we headed to the car Pap gave his to me. I’ve kept it all these years.

Fall Festival was the first place I took the girls by myself without the aid of a stroller or buggy to contain them. It was quite a job taking two toddlers with you if you didn’t have some help, especially to a busy place like a festival.

The girls were about three years old. I wanted to go to the festival and The Deer Hunter didn’t.

I made Chatter and Chitter promise they wouldn’t let go of my hand for nothing. Not one time. They agreed and we headed to the Folk School. We had the best time. They kept their word and held tightly to my hand the whole day.

After that successful trip I took them to Fall Festival every year. The only hiccup I ever remember happening occurred on the way home one year. Chitter got her face painted at the festival, but Chatter didn’t want her’s painted…until we were on the gravel road to home when she suddenly decided having her face painted was a true immediate necessity.

Then there were the years of the girls clogging during both days of the festival. That always made for a hectic weekend. Miss Cindy would come out to help make sure we arrived at the stage on time with both girls and all the clogging paraphernalia.

The girls were in high school when they started singing a few songs with Pap and Paul on the big stage of the festival barn. Of course these days they’re the ones running the performance with Paul and me tagging along for the ride.

Fall Festival is October 5-6; 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. I’m hoping this year is a little cooler than last year, which I believe was the hottest Fall Festival on record. Sometimes it’s actually cold for Fall Festival.

I remember one year Chitter didn’t feel good, but I drug her along to the festival anyway. After we got home I realized she had a fever and felt horrible about having her out in the cold wind all day.

Out of curiosity I asked the girls to share a favorite Fall Festival memory with me.

Chatter: “My favorite memory is of visiting the petting zoo animals. I loved walked down the trail to where they always were. Following the trail made me feel like I was entering a magic kingdom and when I got to the bottom of the hill there were all the cute animals.”

Chitter: “I love the cold Fall Festivals best. I can remember sitting on a hay bale all bundled up eating a tasty festival snack listening to good music.”

Rooney Floyd, a loyal Blind Pig reader, shared his memories of the first Fall Festival he attended with me too:

“My first fall festival was in 1978. It was not the first fall festival, but very early. It was centered around open house, the log cabins, and the garden area. There were no other activities anywhere else around the campus. The festival barn still had cows in it. I would guess attendance in the hundreds, not thousands. I best remember Jack Hall being there as he was my favorite. I had been in his woodcarving class the previous summer. A lot of the crowd was local and not nearly as many from off as it is now. Mercer Scroggs and Monroe Wilson were there selling the scroll-saw work that they did. Mercer ran the store back then and Monroe was postmaster. Gladys Rogers who ran the gift shop seemed to be in charge and of course Ester Hyatt, the director, was there. Food was all locally prepared by various individuals. My favorite was a little lady selling pie. I asked for a piece of her pecan pie and she corrected me saying “That’s black walnut pie!” Well, it was a chilly October morning and I had a cup of coffee with my black walnut pie. I have never had anything better. It was so rich and looked just like the pecan pie my folks always made. Everything seemed just about perfect that day–Folk School, crafts, food, and the people. I suppose that’s why I’ve been back several times a year for 42 years–and still counting…”


Be sure to drop back by tomorrow for a chance to win Fall Festival tickets.


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  • Reply
    Rick Shepherd
    September 20, 2019 at 4:54 pm

    We just retired here in the North Georgia Mountains last November, 2018 southwest of Murphy about 15 miles…..We plan on attending the fall festival and hope to hear the Pressley Girls singing, meet you Tipper and get some of that Black Walnut Pie…..Lordy that sounds good!

  • Reply
    September 20, 2019 at 3:39 pm

    I will always be glad my husband and I got to the Fall Festival a couple of years ago and got to meet you and the girls- or was it three? I sure hope to get there again. Unfortunately, it won’t be this year.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    September 20, 2019 at 10:05 am

    I’m glad you let other folks tell the stories of past events. One time I was at the Red Barn sitting on the bales of hay and my arthritis started acting up in my left shoulder. Miss Cindy saw that I was in pain so she came over and massaged my shoulder. It helped.

    On the way through the crowd, I saw more Crafts and Drawings that I had seen, ever, in one place. Food was everywhere, no matter where you went, the Funnel Cakes went with you. And the barbecue and tater salad was the best in the world. I don’t know if I was just hungry or whatever. It had been a long Sunday and I left smiling. …Ken

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 20, 2019 at 8:22 am

    Precious and priceless memories, one of the finest things we can make. Each memory is a tie to place and time and people and, often, interests. As the cotton commercial has it, they are the fabric of our lives. I’m sure you all will make some more this year.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    September 20, 2019 at 7:07 am

    My memories of fall festival are kind of vague, I believe it was only on Friday nights. There were games to play for prizes, bobbing for apples, cinnamon and caramel candy apples, and cotton candy. This also brings up a fight I had at a fall festival with a bully. I never picked a fight with anyone but wouldn’t be run over. Boys were always fighting then and sometimes girls. The girl fights which we called cat fights were more vicious than the boys. I guess this sounds awful but there were no shootings, stabbings or dope, just bloody noses and black eyes or some hair pulling.

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