Nominations sought for prestigious Mountain Heritage Awards

The bluegrass-gospel band Mountain Faith, a previous Mountain Heritage Award winner, will return to Mountain Heritage Day this year as a headline performer.

Western Carolina University is accepting nominations for the Mountain Heritage Awards, an honor bestowed annually on one individual and one organization playing a prominent role in researching, preserving and/or interpreting Southern Appalachian history, culture and issues.

Nominations for the awards will be accepted through Friday, June 30. The awards are presented at Mountain Heritage Day, the university’s celebration of traditional Appalachian culture that takes place on the last Saturday each September.

The university instituted the Mountain Heritage Award in 1976, and the first recipient was the late John Parris, a Jackson County native, career newspaperman and author. Parris, who died in May 1999, was widely regarded for his long-running “Roaming the Mountains” columns in the Asheville Citizen-Times. He helped establish WCU’s journalism studies program and championed the establishment of a center to preserve the traditions and cultures of the WNC mountains, which led to the founding of WCU’s Mountain Heritage Center.

John Parris, first recipient of a Mountain Heritage Award in 1976, with his wife Dorothy.

Letters of nomination should not exceed five pages and should include the full name of the individual or organization being nominated, with a website address if applicable; the mailing address of the nominee; the founding date for organizational nominees; a list of the nominee’s accomplishments; a list of the awards and other recognitions received by the nominee; information about the nominee’s influence in the relevant field of expertise, such as crafts, music or organizational cause; and information about the nominee’s role as a teacher, advocate, leader or preserver of mountain culture.

Nomination letters may be hand-delivered to the Mountain Heritage Center at its new location in the Hunter Library building, Room 240; mailed to Mountain Heritage Center, 1 University Drive, Cullowhee NC 28723; or emailed to Pam Meister, director of the Mountain Heritage Center, at pameister@wcu.edu.

Many of the icons of Western North Carolina’s traditional culture have received the award over the years, including Cherokee potter Amanda Swimmer and Clay County community leader Rob Tiger, and organizations such as the Jackson County Genealogical Society and the John C. Campbell Folk School. The university has given two awards annually, one for a person and one for an organization, since 2007. One award was presented each year from 1976 to 2006.

Last year’s award winners were George Frizzell, who retired as director of WCU Special Collections after a 34-year career, and Dogwood Crafters, an arts and crafts collective established in Jackson County in 1976.