Road Trips: Great riches in nature and art in Yancey County

Posted: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 10:35 pm
Zenda Douglas/Special Correspondent
Winston-Salem Journal

In Burnsville, both the only town and county seat of Yancey County, you won’t find a lot of the things that often come to wealthier places: high-rise buildings, avenues of McMansions, traffic and the noise of honking horns. What you will find in this small, mountain town and its surrounding area are great riches in nature and art.
Indeed, Yancey County is the most mountainous county in North Carolina, having within its boundaries five of the highest peaks in eastern America, including Mount Mitchell which, at 6,684 feet, is the highest point east of the Mississippi. Amid these peaks are diverse forests, nationally protected land, small communities and a population that is thick with artists. You can’t roam far without encountering an artist, piece of public art, mural, artist studio or gallery. Scattered around the county, you will see the works of woodworkers, glassblowers, potters, metalsmiths, weavers, quilters, basket makers, painters, sculptors, papermakers, photographers and more. Everywhere you look there is nature inspiring art.
Visitors will delight in the local area galleries such as the downtown Burnsville Toe River Arts Council Gallery. Stop in at One of a Kind Art Gallery in nearby Micaville. Call ahead to visit artists in their studios/galleries. Many of them, including, Claudia Dunaway, a potter, John Richards, a mixed-media artist, at Yummy Mud Puddle as well as Rob Levin, a glassblower, welcome visitors to enjoy a behind-the-scenes look and see their work.
Plan ahead to take part in the Toe River Studio Tour held twice annually in June and December.
Art takes the stage at the Parkway Playhouse where the 2015 season is in full swing. Coming up are performances of “All Shook Up,” “Red” and “The Glass Menagerie.” Many artistic events and festivals take place in Burnsville’s town square.
Cooler summer temperatures make Yancey County the perfect place for hiking, camping, mountain biking, gem hunting and, of course, cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Night-sky enthusiasts will want to make their way to the Mayland Community College Blue Ridge Star Park, the first star park in the Southeast United States certified by the International Dark-Sky Association. Construction has started on an observatory building for the largest telescope in the Southeast that is in dark skies and dedicated for public use. Completion is expected this winter.
Burnsville’s bed-and-breakfast inns offer all the comforts of home. Remarkable among them is the Terrell House Inn where six individually decorated rooms and a scrumptious breakfast awaits — the homemade cinnamon bread makes every morning special. There is a history lesson in every room of the NuWray Inn, North Carolina’s oldest operating inn. The rockers on the long front porch overlook the town square. On weekends, family style southern meals are offered to guests and the public.
Upcoming events
Mt. Mitchell Crafts Fair, Burnsville Town Square, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Aug. 7-8: With approximately 200 juried crafts, this annual event qualifies as a craft shopper’s paradise. Over 25,000 people attend each year searching for special, one-of-a-kind items created by artisans from across the Blue Ridge. Have a seat and watch as the artisans work throughout the day. Free. For more information call (828) 682-7413.
10th Annual Carolina Mountains Literary Festival, Burnsville Town Center, 6 South Main St., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sept. 10-12:Celebrate the stories of our shared earth. Reflect on our pasts and wonder about the possibilities for our futures. Dual keynote speakers are Barbara Kingsolver and Ann Patchett. Most events are free. For more information, call (828) 208-4731.
Old Timey Fall Festival, Burnsville Town Square, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sept. 26: A full day of old timey family fun. Antique tractor and car parade, live music, kids’ games, arts and crafts, farmers market, food and a great community atmosphere. Free. For more information, call (828) 678-9587.
30th Annual Music in the Mountains Folk Festival, Burnsville Town Center, 6 South Main St., Burnsville, 5:30 p.m., Sept. 26:The festival is dedicated to the preservation of mountain music, culture and includes bluegrass and traditional music, ballad singers, storytellers, and dancing. For more information, call (828) 682-7215.