STONE MOUNTAIN — Stone Mountain State Park had its 47th annual Old Fashion Day festival Saturday afternoon, but organizers were celebrating more than just the culture and heritage of Stone Mountain State Park and the Wilkes County area.
“This is a Stone Mountain centennial celebration and the 100th anniversary of the North Carolina State Park System,” said Keith Martin, Superintendent of Mayo River Springs Park. “Mount Mitchell came online in 1916 and every park statewide is having an event this year that’s going to be a centennial celebration. Old Fashion Day is an annual event here at Stone Mountain so there’s a little extra emphasis this year. It’s a tribute and a homage to the culture and the history of Wilkes County.”
People came from all around for the day. Some dropped in from the local area while others made the trip or were camping in the park on vacation.
“It’s a great event. We brought our grandchildren up,” said Teressa Wood with her grandchildren Dalton, Jaxson, and Cindy Wood. “We’re from Roaring River and we’ve loved the music and we even made corn husk dolls. We parked at the next parking lot down so we could bring the kids through the woods and do a hike. I love the atmosphere, the kind of old things that they do such as the corn grinding, and I like meeting people I know along with meeting new faces.”
The Elkin Valley Trails Association (EVTA) was at the festival supporting the park while also promoting the Elkin trails, including the new extension to the Alleghany Railroad trail and the new bridge.
“This is first year for us. We’ve had a lot of people and a lot of interest,” said Bob Hillyer with the Elkin Valley Trails Association. “We’ve been promoting the Elkin Valley Trails and the Mountains to Seas Trail today. The Elkin Alleghany Railroad trail has been extended with the new bridge being completed soon and we’re really excited for that. It’s been a long time coming. We’ve had a lot of community support for it between hard work and donations.”
“I think there is a lot of heritage in this area and the slower pace of life,” said Jason Taylor with EVTA. “It brings back fond memories to a lot of people who may have grown up here, then went to the big city and came back to their memories here.”
“We’ve also had newcomers who have never experienced Stone Mountain,” said Dee Neil with EVTA. “You see people out having picnics. It’s just a fun laid back event. It’s a good family event.”
Several crafters came from all around to show their work, including potters, painters, cooks, weavers, quilt makers, and many other crafts.
“We made a quilt in celebration of the 20 years of the guild with each block in the quilt representing one of those years,” said Barbara Philips with the Alleghany Quilters Guild. “The entire guild made this quilt. It was a year-long project. This is my first time here for Old Fashion Day and I think it’s great. I will definitely be back. I just love being outside.”
“My husband and I have been here pretty much every year they’ve done it,” said weaver Mary Freas. “I love to do dish towels. That’s my favorite because I get to play with a lot of colors. I use a lot of natural fibers to spin scarfs and shawls, table runners, whatever strikes my fancy. I can do whatever I can do with a piece of cloth. Since I liked different textures, I tend to do smaller things.”
Old Fashion Day gives people a chance to reconnect with the culture and heritage of the area.
“There’s a lot of families here with children and it really gives an opportunity to see not just the park but also see things that went on here,” said Jean Stevens with the Alleghany Quilters Guild. “There’s a quilt in the Stone Mountain Visitor’s building that we made as a representation of life here.”
“The idea of our display was to display firearms that would’ve existed around 1916,” said Martin. “Some of them are from the 1860s including rifles, rifle muskets, double barrels, pump action shotguns, and bolt-action firearms. It gives people a glimpse of what life was like here long ago.”
Guests also had the chance to enjoy the festivities in the sunshine, a welcome change from the rainy festival that was held last year.
For some, just getting the chance to meet people and show their work and hobbies is the highlight of the day.
“I enjoy meeting the people because people come from all over,” said Mary Freas. “You have local people and folks from out of town who are out camping or who just made the trip. That’s what brings me back every year.”
The festivities also gave people a chance to pass down their knowledge of the area to the next generation. Old fashioned games and activities were held for kids at 2 p.m. by the park rangers, teaching kids about the parks and the environment while giving them a chance to have fun outdoors.
“It gives kids a chance to learn about the parks and the opportunities across the state,” said Sharon Becker, district interpretation and education specialist. “We provide games and educational activities for the kids to get interested in parks and spend time outside with nature so they can enjoy these public spaces. For example, we had a replica of the state made with locations of parks in the state that teaches them about their state parks and challenges to get moving and get active while learning about what wildlife is in a park. We also had a tent set up with some books in it to get them comfortable with camping.”
“This is a really cool park. It’s got a lot of good features that set most parks apart if it had them singularly,” said Martin. “Just the dome itself would make it stand out but you’ve also got the trails, waterfalls, the old homesteads, there’s a lot of things that could be the primary features but this park has a lot of significant features.”
“I love hiking and I love Stone Mountain,” said Wood. “I love hiking all year around. It’s jut part of nature, getting kids away from electronics and out in nature . It’s important that we let them experience all the old things that god’s made instead of what man’s made.”
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.