D. H. Ramsey Library Special Collections and University Archives

Mountain Dance and Folk Festival

Shindig on the Green Collection

M2005.1.1-6, P2005.1, OS2005.1.1-4

Mountain Dance & Folk Festival founder Bascom Lamar Lunsford (banjo), J.P. Fisher,
and Bill McElreath. Photograh by Bill Lindsey.

Mountain Dance & Folk Festival/Shindig on the Green - Official  Home Site



Mountain Dance and Folk Festival & Shindig on the Green Collection


Folk Heritage Committee

Scope and Contents

The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival (MDFF) is the nation's oldest folk festival. It grew out of the Rhododendron Festival and by 1930 it was an independent festival in Asheville, North Carolina. Today the annual Mountain Dance and Folk Festival continues to feature musicians and dancers who characterize the music and dance of the Southern Appalachian region. This collection documents the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival and its subsidiary entertainment venue, the Shindig on the Green.  The Folk Heritage Committee, a subcommittee of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, is the governing organization charged with the management of the Festival and of the Shindig on the Green and the records in this collection were donated by that agency. This collection documents the activity of the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival and from the late 1930's to the present, with most of the records falling within the period from the early 1960's forward.  The Shindig on the Green was created in the 1970's. 

The very early history of the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival is housed in the Southern Appalachian Archives at Mars Hill University and in various private collections. Some early records and correspondence is included in this collection at UNCA.  The bulk of the material centers on the promotional efforts of the two entertainment venues, and the largest body of material is the visual material that grew out of the marketing efforts of the Folk Heritage Committee and the Asheville Chamber of Commerce. The photographic images, posters, programs,  ephemera, and objects such as award cups, plaques, and framed awards are largely concentrated on the 1970's through the 1980's and depict many of the events and performers of the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival and the Shindig on the Green. A total of 1.037 photographs, slides, pamphlets, and flyers have been digitized and can be viewed in the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival section of the Southern Appalachian Digital Collections website.

The collection does not contain significant audio or video material from the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. Scholars interested in such material should consult the Smithsonian Folkways recordings and the Library of Congress  Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center or the Bascom Lamar Lunsford archive at Mars Hill University.

Material will continue to be added to this collection as it becomes available. The large holdings at Mars Hill University representing the Bascom Lamar Lunsford archive is central to an understanding of the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival and UNCA will continue to work with Mars Hill to encourage development of the best electronic access for scholars and for those interested in the history of the Festival and the Shindig on the Green.

UNCA invites the identification of additional materials held in private collections that may relate to the history of the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. We also welcome the identification of individual musicians and dancers depicted in the many images contained in this collection. Contact speccoll@unca.edu <


D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville 28804


North Carolina Humanities Council




Collection ; Text ; Photographs


18 linear feet

Digitized Images

Mountain Dance and Folk Festival photograph collection, part of the Southern Appalachian Digital Collections website.


M2005.1.1-6, P2005.1 D.H. Ramsey Library Manuscript Collections




1928 - present ; Asheville, NC


Restrictions apply. Copyright retained by the Folk Heritage Committee, whose permission must be obtained prior to the publication of any material from the collection. Any display, publication, or public use must credit the D. H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina.


2005-03-10  ; Additional materials donated by Glenn Bannerman, January 17, 2012.


[Identification of item] Mountain Dance & Folk Festival & Shindig on the Green Collection, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville 28804

Processed by

David Sobie, 2005 ; Helen Wykle, 2005 ; 2006 ; Matthew Farrell, 2009 ; 2010 ; HW 2012; Gene Hyde, 2014



Historical Context

"For forty-six years I've never had a written program, never had a piece of paper in my hand. I know the fellers, knew what they played, knew how well they did it, you see," so said Bascom Lamar Lunsford in a 1974 interview with Southern Exposure magazine. It was his vision of authentic and honest music along with his organizational wizardry that led to the first performance of what would later become known as the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival and which, some years following, inspired the annual Shindig on the Green.

The Rhododendron Festival staged by the Asheville Chamber of Commerce had for many years held a parade, arts and crafts displays, and even a beautiful baby contest. It was Bascom Lamar Lunsford who developed the music and dance to accompany the popular festival. By 1930, in the early years of the Depression,  the music and dance events had eclipsed the parent festival and the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival was launched as an independent event. While the Rhododendron Festival continued its programs until the late 1930's it was abandoned during the difficult years of WWII and was never re-vitalized. The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival not only thrived during the war years, it grew in popularity and stature.

Bascom Lamar Lunsford was born in Mars Hill, North Carolina in 1882 on the campus of Mars Hill University. He trained at the college and also learned how to pick the banjo and to have a deep appreciation of the mountain ballad. He became a lawyer but he eventually returned to his first calling, music. As a musician, his fame spread and he performed for Franklin Roosevelt at the White House, for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and for other notables. His many recordings were collected by Columbia University in 1935 and the Library of Congress in 1949, and recordings are aviallable from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the Library of Congress's American Folklife Center, and in the Southern Appalachian Archives at Mars Hill University. His interest in preserving the mountain heritage and in performing authentic mountain music is seminal to the development of the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. His legacy also continues in another festival he and pharmacist Ed Howard created in 1967, called the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Festival. Held annually at Mars Hill College in October, the festival celebrates music, dance and crafts of the Southern Appalachians. But, unlike the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, the Mars Hill Lunsford Festival does not promote competition, but emphasizes the learning of mountain music and folk ways. Today both festivals feed into a stream of cultural awareness that has helped the region to become widely acknowledged as the center of Southern Appalachian music and dance. Today many of the nations musicians, songwriters, song collectors, and others with an interest in Appalachian culture, come to Asheville and to Mars Hill to gather creative inspiration and none leave without an introduction to Bascom Lamar Lunsford.

Asheville, a small town in the Southern Appalachians of western North Carolina soon became recognized as a center for Southern Mountain folksongs and for string music. Entertainers and collectors of folk music such as Fiddlin' Bill Hensley, Artus Moser, Aunt Samantha Bumgarner, Bill McElreath, Red Parham, and others were soon joined by "outsiders" like Pete Seeger, George Pegram, Plez Mobley, Roger Sprung and others. "Outsiders" had a difficult go of it in the early years of the festival, as  Lunsford wanted the festival to represent only the talent of "Native" artists but the inclusion of "outsiders" soon became recognized as a strength of the Festival.

Under the watchful eye of Lunsford, even native talent would find the going tough if they imbibed or strayed from the good Christian image that Lunsford adhered to. Lunsford was heard to remark, "You have to get people you can depend on. You may have the finest musician in the world, but he may not be reliable. He may drink too much."

The phrase "Along about sundown," often associated with the Festival, was coined by Lunsford to give an air of informality to the events of the Festival. Rather than subject the musicians, dancers and audience to a tightly controlled time-table, he would give the starting time for the main events of the festival as "Along about sundown." It was this folksy and informal style that could be found in the many "jamming" sessions that often sprang up at the Festival. Also, it was in these spontaneous sessions that many new dancers and musicians stretched their winged feet and picked their fingers raw and started on the long road to recognition. It was their enthusiasm for music that also gave rise to another Asheville tradition, the so-called "Shindig on the Green."

In the 1970's the Folk Heritage Committee, comprised of performers,  the Festival Director, and other community members, was charged with the selection of  musicians,  singers, story-tellers, and dancers for the Festival. They quickly realized that the many jam-sessions were rich in new talent and they institutionalized these impromptu gatherings and called the "jam" Shindig on the Green.

Originally, the Shindig musicians gathered in the Westgate Shopping Center where they played banjo, guitar and other musical instruments, and tried out new songs, and re-worked old ones. It was in these informal gatherings that many musicians and an occasional "clogger" or story-teller was prompted to give up their "day job" for the world of entertainment. Today the summer evening Saturday  "Shindigs" are still being held and they provide a free and informal gathering place for locals, tourists and folk music aficionados from around the country. Currently the Shindig on the Green has moved to Martin Luther Park while its traditional location on Pack Square in front of the City and County buildings, is re-landscaped and shaped into a more expansive community park. Where Shindig gathers on a Saturday evening in the summer the foot-tapping audience may number into the thousands and in that audience new musicians are born.

Musicians sign up to play in Shindig, and their performance is judged each evening. The more talented musicians can then find themselves invited to the prestigious Festival stage and from there they may find themselves invited to national venues.

Not only did Lunsford require his early musicians in the Festival to be clean-living natives, he held equal standards for the dancers of the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. Clogging, a popular dance style in the mountains was institutionalized at the Festival. Many believe it was through this Festival that the idea of clog-dance teams was born. These teams still flourish throughout the Southern Appalachians and, indeed, throughout the country. For Lunsford, an "insider" was not just a geographic locator, it was a stamp of authenticity and personal integrity.

While some believed Lunsford's views to be too ethnocentric and too narrowly defining, the general consensus was that the Festival provided the most important gathering of Southern Appalachian musicians and dancers to be found and it was through his sincere vision and hard work that the Festival weathered the lean years of the early 1960's and blossomed again in the mid to late 1960's when folk music became a part of the national cultural scene. Since the late 1960's the popularity of the Festival and its authentic representation of music and dance of the region has never waned.

Bascom Lamar Lunsford died September 4, 1973, but his legacy can be traced in the many musicians who have moved up through the friendly rigor of the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival.

*See the Folk Heritage Committee 2002 publication, Along About Sundown ... 1928-2002, for the expanded history of the Festival and Shindig on the Green.


1 Folk Heritage Committee organizational papers
2 Correspondence
3 Financial documents
4 Promotional documents
5 Legal documents
6 Planning and organizational documents
7 Printed materials ; Digitized selection 1 and 2
8 Publications
9 Newspaper Clippings
10 Lunsford Primary Documents
11 Awards, plaques, and realia
12 Audio recordings
13 Video recordings


Photographs - Mountain Dance and Folk Festival and Shindig on the Green Over 1,300 images digitized from 35 mm slides, negatives, and prints ranging from 1963 to 2001.
15 Glenn Bannerman Donation  (January 2012)

Misc. Shindig Publications
Newspaper Clippings

[*Pamphlets and publications integrated with MDFF & Shindig materials. ]