Elk Knob festival honors mountain oasis
by Sherrie Norris
Idol, whose family land bordered the panoramic mountaintop oasis for many generations, is a founding member of the Elk Knob Community Heritage Organization, established nine years ago to protect the natural and cultural heritage of the communities surrounding the Elk Knob State Park, in particular Meat Camp and Pottertown.
EKCHO, in partnership with the North Carolina State Parks System and the Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University, is hosting the ninth annual Elk Knob Community Headwaters Day Saturday, Sept. 14.
Hundreds of local residents, as well as area visitors, are expected to gather at the park "rain or shine," Idol said, for the daylong event.
"We've had as many as 400 people up there since we started having this celebration," she said.
She grew up "on the backside of the mountain," Idol said. "My mom was from one side of the mountain and my dad from the other, and their romance blossomed with the help of the mailman carrying letters back and forth between them. It means a lot to me and to many others that we have been able to preserve this land and to celebrate our heritage every year."
Idol calls the upcoming event "a homecoming," where anyone with a love for mountains and traditions will find something to enjoy -- whether hiking up to Elk Knob's summit, watching the various demonstrations of traditional crafting, such as quilting, corn shuck doll making, eating good home-cooked food, swapping folklore and family history or sharing old photos.
The event begins at 11 a.m. with live entertainment, food, demonstrations and exhibit booths, among the many attractions planned for the day.
Crafters, historians and special interest groups which are working hard to keep mountain traditions alive and who are supporting the Elk Knob Community Headwaters will be on hand, according to Idol. They include Friends of the High Country State Parks, Blue Ridge Conservancy, beekeepers, potters, spinners, weavers, quilters and others.
There will be a gristmill on-site, horse-drawn wagon rides, hide-tanning demonstrations, guided trail hikes, old-time tool demonstrations, environmental programs and children's games from days gone by.
Considered a local jewel for families born and raised nearby, Elk Knob gained regional, state and national attention when it first became a state natural area in 2003, Idol said. Its designation as a state park in 2006-07 began drawing even more people to the area.
"They come from everywhere now," Idol said.
Elk Knob is considered "an important headwaters area for the New River," she said. Its peak reaches 5,520 feet with some of the grandest views found anywhere.
"You can look into Tennessee and Virginia and over to Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell and Roan Mountain," she said.
On behalf of EKCHO, Idol invites the community at large to join the fun at Elk Knob Headwaters Community Day.
The entertainment schedule is as follows:
11 a.m. -- Dollar Brothers11:40 a.m. -- Maggie Idol12:10 p.m. -- Garrett Munday and Megan Sheppard12:50 p.m. -- Dashboard Hula Boys1:30 p.m. -- The Winkler Family2:10 p.m. -- George Wilson and Friends2:50 p.m. -- The Appalachian Cloggers3:30 p.m. -- Public jam -- bring your instruments
Lunch will be served at noon.
Admission charge is a large covered dish.
Seating space for the meal is limited, so bringing chairs and blankets is recommended. For more information about the park, call (828) 297-7261.
Elk Knob State Park is located at 5564 Meat Camp Road in Todd.
• From Boone: Take U.S. 421 East to N.C. 194 North; turn left onto Meat Camp Road and travel 5.5 miles to the park.• From Tennessee: Take Rich Mountain Road south to Meat Camp. • From Jefferson: Take U.S. 221 South to N.C. 194 South; turn right onto Meat Camp Road and travel 5.5 miles to the park.