The Laurel of Asheville

By Natasha Anderson

September 29, 2022

The Haywood County Arts Council (HCAC) hosts the Smoky Mountains Bluegrass Festival Saturday, October 29, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds. This is HCAC’s biggest annual fundraiser and its second year hosting the event.

“We surveyed last year’s attendees to find out how we could improve, and many folks told us it was the best event they had ever been to, which was really heartwarming,” says HCAC marketing and membership coordinator Lauren Medford.

Held at the peak of leaf season, the festival brings all of HCAC’s programs and artists together for a one-of-a-kind music-themed experience. The festival includes award-winning bluegrass bands, music-themed vendors, raffles, artist member demonstrations and artwork, a child and adult playground, and local drinks and food. A pumpkin decorating station and a costume contest for all ages add to the seasonal fun.

Two instrument makers, Ugly Boy Flutes and Brandon J. Johnson Violins, will participate, with Johnson demonstrating his violin making and Bob Child of Ugly Boy Flutes showing his native-style flutes, known for their crystal-clear, responsive and lyrical voice. Other instruments including banjos, mandolins and guitars will be for sale from Strains of Music, along with strings, picks, tuners and other musical accessories.

New food vendors this year include Waynesville’s Woof Street Bistro and Blunt Pretzels. Marked Tree Vineyard will offer top-quality local wine. Quench Buggy will provide free water to people who bring refillable water bottles. Special festival water bottles will be for sale.

Live entertainment is provided by the bluegrass bands Balsam Range, Sister Sadie, and The Amanda Cook Band. Haywood county-based Balsam Range won the 2021 International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA’s) Song of the Year award, its 2018 Entertainer of the Year award and a dozen other IBMA awards since forming in 2007. The band has recorded eight critically acclaimed albums.

Nashville-based Sister Sadie formed in 2012 after playing a sold-out show at the legendary Station Inn. In 2018, their sophomore album Sister Sadie – II debuted at Number Two on the Billboard Bluegrass Charts and was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Bluegrass Album category in 2019. Sister Sadie became the first all-female group to be awarded Vocal Group of the Year at the 2019 IBMA Awards. In 2020, they repeated that award and also took home the Entertainer of the Year Award.

The Amanda Cook Band, based in Laurel Fork, VA, has gained a loyal following since forming just over five years ago. In 2020, their song “Get on Board” reached number two on the Bluegrass Today Top 20 Song Chart. On October 14, Mountain Fever Records will release the band’s fourth full-length album, Changes.

“We know our customers expect an amazing show so we worked hard to bring together groups that are internationally recognized for their contributions and talents in Bluegrass music, and to support an up-and-coming group to get them more visibility,” says Medford.