Boone and the rest of the High Country have always had a unique culture that breeds art, expression and resilience, with many people taking the time to make sure that the culture is not lost to time.
This preservation has been done through the cultivation of historical items and programs that celebrate the history itself, and they can be found all around the High Country. In Boone, the town set up the Cultural Resources Department, which works with individual organizations and programs to encourage the promotion of the area’s culture and continue the organizations’ efforts.
“What we do is we oversee (town cultural properties like the Jones House) and groups that use them and then we present our own programming, which currently is mostly virtual,” said Mark Freed, Boone cultural resources director. “Our programming includes things like our summer concert program which is outside the Jones House on Fridays and our Junior Appalachian Musician Musician program.”
The department also helps organize events and programs that might be done by individual committees in other areas, such as parades or festivals.
“Being a part of the town of Boone, we have a large network and a lot of resources from our public works department to our water and sewer crews,” Freeman said. “On the other side of that, by having these community groups that do things at our properties, they keep our properties lively and engaging; and they keep people on those properties to use them, look out for them and keep us apprised as to what renovations and improvements need to be made.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in 2020, the department was forced to press pause or go virtual with most of its programs. While vaccines have been rolling out and restrictions eased, Freeman said they are still being careful with how they implement their programming, keeping eyes on guidelines from the individuals properties, the town and the state.
“We’re planning to be flexible and to be nimble and ready to go provide the community the things that mean so much to us,” Freeman said. “We’re all craving to get back to the live events, but we also want to be cautious and want to make sure that we do it in a safe way.”
Freeman said the plan is to still have virtual programming into June, but they are already planning for live, in-person events as well. This includes the dedication of a statue in the historic Junaluska community and a fireworks display for July 4, while waiting for the right time to bring back any concerts.
Ultimately, Freeman said that conserving the rich culture of Appalachia and passing it on to the next generations are the most important things, no matter if it happens through Zoom or in person.
“People come to Boone because of our beautiful mountains, our outdoor recreation and they come because of our history,” Freeman said. “Things like our music, our craft and dance traditions, these stories go on with them so it gives us a unique footing within Appalachia. We’re not huge like Asheville, we’re a mountain town that’s big enough to have those resources, but we’re small enough that we’re tied to tradition.”