Written by: Brandon Cheek and Patrick Cash
September 29, 1977: Mars Hill College hosted the 10th year anniversary of the Bascom Lamar Lunsford “Minstrel of Appalachia” Festival. Billed as “the world’s most authentic festival of mountain music and dancing,” Mars Hill College will highlight the special anniversary of the festival with three days of programming and special events. The festival began with a night of dancing on Thursday, September 29 at Madison High School in Marshall. On Friday, September 30, campus hosted a “youth night” in Moore Auditorium, with the main festival taking place during the day and evening of Saturday, October 1 on campus.
Along with the events planned over the three days, there were also several special occasions planned for the weekend. A photography exhibit was on display in Memorial Library while the college’s Appalachian Room had several historical items on display for the public to enjoy. Visitors were also able to take in craft demonstrations and partake in several musical and dance workshops as well as join along in a traditional jam session.
Born on the campus of Mars Hill in 1870, Bascom Lamar Lunsford is as important to the history of this institution as he is to the history of Appalachian music and dance. Lunsford father served as the seventh president of Mars Hill while his mother oversaw on of the college’s residence halls. Lunsford himself always maintained a close relationship with the school throughout his life, even once stating that it was on campus that he first learned the art of ballad singing and banjo picking as a young child. During the later years of his life, Lunsford donated parts of personal collection to the archives at Mars Hill. In total, over 4,000 items make up the Bascom Lamar Lunsford collection that are preserved and stored in the Southern Appalachian Archives.
The Bascom Lamar Lunsford “Minstrel of Appalachia” festival continues today as the only festival allowed to carry Mr. Lunsford’s name. The 49th anniversary of the festival will take place this weekend, October 1, beginning at 10:00 a.m. on the campus of Mars Hill University. For more information, visit http://www.lunsfordfestival.com/.