Heritage Day serves up a taste of the past

Sue Guinn Legg • Oct 21, 2018 at 12:49 AM

UNICOI — Persistent rain and a chilly breeze did not stop a good crowd of visitors from one of Unicoi’s most popular celebrations Saturday as the town’s annual Heritage Day living history demonstrations played out at the Bogart-Bowman Cabin.

Dressed in period costume and alternately taking turns on an antique corn shelling machine, trying her hand at the art of felting and introducing visitors to the featured crafters, Ashley Cavender, communications and programs director for the town, was obviously having a blast.

Considering the weather, Cavender said, Saturday’s crowd was a happy surprise and it came on the heels of a gorgeous fall Friday when nearly 200 children and several additional crafters had been at the cabin for a Heritage Day celebration exclusively for area schools.

Held each year in October, the celebration is designed to allow visitors to experience life as it was in the Appalachian Mountains in the early 1800s.

Approximately 20 living history demonstrations took part in the two-day event, making apple butter over an open fire, baking in a brick oven, cooking in ember covered dutch ovens, shelling corn, quilting, bee tending, blacksmithing and more.

Southwest Virginia’s “Mountain Man” storyteller Jerry Vencill, Jonesborough dulcimer teacher Don Burger and woodcarver Joe Pilkenton were also there to share their talents.

Jesse Helton, Pete Wyatt and friends from their Overmountain Cast Iron Association were there sharing generous samples of hot yeast rolls, turkey legs, shepherd’s pie and bread pudding fresh from their dutch oven.

Pat Lynch, with the Unicoi Historical Association, was keeping the cabin’s brick oven busy and giving away scratch biscuits by the pan-full with samples of corn husk jelly, apple and pear butter and sorghum.

And just off the dogtrot in the cabin’s kitchen, there were big pots of soup beans, collards, cornbread and an assortment of traditional cakes.

“It’s just a hobby,” Helton said, “keeping our history and heritage going.”

Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.