The story below is an excerpt from our July/August 2016 issue. For the rest of this story and more like it subscribe today, log in to read our digital edition or download our FREE iOS app. Thank you!
Along about sundown on many summer evenings in Asheville, something magical happens at Pack Square Park in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. Visitors and locals alike bring chairs and blankets to enjoy an evening of traditional mountain music and dance. This year, Shindig on the Green celebrates 50 years of preserving the heritage of this region with multiple generations of old-time string bands, fiddlers, banjo pickers, square dancers, cloggers and ballad singers taking the stage.
“Folks come from all over the world and Shindig is on their itinerary,” says celebrated musician and frequent Shindig emcee Laura Boosinger, who also serves as executive director of the Madison County Arts Council.
“The biggest thing most people don’t know is that Shindig on the Green started as a service project. The Asheville Citizen-Times required employees to do some sort of community service and Jerry Israel, who worked in advertising, and Bob Lindsay, who was a photographer, started putting on a shindig,” she says.
The need for such an event spiraled out of the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival created by Bascom Lamar Lunsford. Many of the musicians who took part in that needed a place to gather and play on Saturday nights downtown.
Loretta Freeman, head of the Folk Heritage Committee that produces Shindig on the Green, has deep connections to this free event that draws 4,000 to 6,000 people every week. She grew up listening to her dad, Gordon Freeman, play his fiddle at the festival. She has also performed with numerous clog and smooth dance teams. Her uncle, Arvil Freeman, is a renowned fiddler for Shindig’s house band, the Stoney Creek Boys. Her husband is Jerry Sutton, who followed in the footsteps of his dad playing at the festival. His son, Bryan, is a Grammy-winning musician who has played at Shindig, as have Sutton’s daughter and his granddaughter.
A couple of new things to celebrate this 50th season: A beautiful mural depicting Shindig scenes, painted by Doreyl Ammons Cain, was unveiled on the outside wall of Pack’s Tavern in April. It faces Pack Square Park, where Shindig is held. The other: “Shindig is now part of the Blue Ridge Heritage Trail,” says Freeman.
The 2016 Season: July 2, 9, 16, 23; August 13, 20, 27, and September 3. The 89th Mountain Dance & Folk Festival takes place August 4, 5, and 6 at the Diana Wortham Theatre. Tickets for the festival are $22 adults, $12 (12 and under) and $55.50 adults for all three nights; $24 children for all three nights. folkheritage.org