The annual Appalachian Lifestyle Festival, located in the small town of Waynesville, North Carolina about thirty minutes west of Asheville, is an annual event where vendors, artisans, historians, and musicians come together to recreate, celebrate, and demonstrate the heritage of this area of the mountains for tourists and locals alike. Though I was a bit late to the party, there was still plenty to see as I strolled down historic downtown Waynesville and took in the traditional bluegrass music, clogging (which seems to be like tapping but with heavier shoes to those of us not in the know), and enough southern food to satisfy even the biggest appetite.

This was definitely a family event with kids running amok through the crowds with a plethora of sticky substances, that I’m sure parents will have a hard time getting out of the upholstery later, with their faces painted courtesy of one of the many vendors that lined the street. The food, all of which was delicious, and the music was probably the biggest draw for those underage, but I was pleased to find that adults had plenty to occupy them as well.

The history nerd in me squealed a little bit at the demonstrations of traditional artisan techniques for making furniture and the little centers of historical “Did you know” that were located at strategic intervals throughout the stalls. Not only was it sneaky educational, for those who might want to drag the older kidos to this festival, but it was also visually very interesting. Besides the craft stalls, the amount of local art was also a stunning display of the talent that seemed to saturate this event.

One of the best things about this festival was, because of its location, it was easy to step out of the heat of the summer sun and cool down at one of the local shops that line Main Street without losing the ambience of the festival. Almost every shop I encountered had the same southern charm found outside but with an AC friendly atmosphere. I will confess to consuming far too much food and taking up a table at a charming coffee shop to watch a lot of the merriment outside without feeling the least bit excluded from the festivities.

If you’re interested in learning a little, eating a lot, excellent live music and performances, as well as trying to find more room on your walls to hang all the extra local art you picked up, this is definitely the festival for you. If a summer vacation in the mountains is what you crave, pencil this little hidden gem onto your calendar. You won’t be disappointed.