Each June, visitors flock to Roan Mountain to marvel at one of Mother Nature’s most colorful performances.
This weekend, they can supplement their trip with live music, arts and crafts, and a wide array of old-time folkway demonstrations at the annual festival celebrating the show’s star.
The 66th annual Rhododendron Festival will be held Saturday and Sunday, June 16 and 17, at Roan Mountain State Park. Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., both days.
Sponsored by The Roan Mountain Citizens Club, the festival is held in the park at the foot of the mountain and is scheduled each year to coincide with the peak of the rhododendron bloom.
Nearly 100 arts and crafts vendors will be on hand for the event, along with a variety of food vendors and folkway demonstrators.
Live music will fill the air both days. Saturday’s lineup features country, bluegrass and old-time music on the amphitheater stage from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Keeping with festival tradition, Sunday will be devoted to gospel music from 1 to 5 p.m.
Saturday’s performers include: Jim and Cheri Miller, Mountain Rose, Roses in the Rain, Mountain Rain, Rattle Snake Daddy, Art and Cathy, and the Roan Mountain Moonshiner.
Sunday’s lineup will feature performances by Sound Traveler, Royal Vision, Greater Glory and Gospel Grass.
Various items will be auctioned off between performances to raise money for scholarships for Cloudland High School graduates, and at 2 p.m., Saturday, students participating in this year’s scholarship program will be recognized.
The star of the show, of course, is the Catawba rhododendron found in abundance at the world’s largest natural rhododendron gardens atop the 6,000-foot Roan Mountain. Straddling the Tennessee-North Carolina line, the famous gardens featuring 600 acres of blossoms are part of Pisgah National Forest.
The Roan Mountain Citizens Club presented the first Rhododendron Festival in 1947 as a two-day celebration to memorialize and perpetuate what they call “the most gorgeous display of natural beauty on the North American continent.” The event has been held annually ever since.
To get to Roan Mountain State Park, follow 321/19E North from Elizabethton, then follow 19E to Roan Mountain and turn onto Highway 143 to the park.
For more information about the festival, visit www.roanmountain.com/festival.htm.
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